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An Introduction to Social Psychology 







First Printing, Jan., 1922 
Second Printing, Mar., 192* 
Third Printing. June, 1924 
Fourth Printing, Aug., 1921 
Fifth Printing, Nor., 192* 
Sixth Printing, April, 1933 
Seventh Printing, Dec., 1923 
Eighth Printing, March, 1924 
Ninth Printing, June, 1927 
Tenth Printing, July, 1928 


tt Onton & awtn Company 




Cop* 2- 

In the spring of 1918 I was invited by Leland Stan- 
ford Junior University to give a series of three lec- 
tures upon the West Memorial Foundation. One of 
the topics included within the scope of the Founda- 
tion is Human Conduct and Destiny. This volume is 
the result, as, according to the terms of the Founda- 
tion, the lectures are to be published. The lectures as 
given have, however, been rewritten and considerably 
expanded. An Introduction and Conclusion have been 
added. The lectures should have been published within 
two years from delivery. Absence from the country 
rendered strict compliance difficult; and I am indebted 
to the authorities of the University for their indulgence 
in allowing an extension of time, as well as for so many 
courtesies received during the time when the lectures 
were given. 

Perhaps the sub-title requires a word of explanation* 
The book does not purport to be a treatment of social 
psychology. But it seriously sets forth a belief that 
an understanding of habit and of different types of 
habit is the key to socffl. psychology, while the opera- 
tion of impulse and intelligence gives the key to indi- 
vidualized mental Activity. But they are secondary to 
habit so that mind can lie understood in the concrete 
only as a system of beliefs, desires and purposes which 
are formed in the interaction of biological aptitudes 
with a social environment. J. D. 

February, 1921. 





Contempt for human nature; pathology of good- 
ness; freedom; value of science. 


Habits as functions and arts; social complicity; 
subjective factor. 


Active means; ideas of ends; means and ends; 
nature of character. 

Good will and consequences; virtues and natural 
goods; objective and subjective morals. 


Human psychology is social; habit as conservative; 
mind and body. 

Customs as standards; authority of standards; 
class conflicts. 

isolation of individuality; newer movements. 


Present interest in instincts; impulses as re-organ- 




Impulse and education; uprush of impulse; fixed 

Habits the inert factor; modification of impulses; 
war a social function; economic regimes as social 
products; nature of motives. 

Possibility of social betterment; conservatism. 

False simplifications; "self-love"; will to power; 
acquisitive and creative. 

Uniqueness of acts; possibilities of operation; 
necessity of play and art; rebelliousness. 


Habits and intellect; mind, habit and impulse. 

The trinity of intellect; conscience and its alleged 
separate subject-matter. 


Deliberation as imaginative rehearsal; preference 
and choice; strife of reason and passion; nature of 

Error in utilitarian theory; place of the pleasant; 
hedonistic calculus; deliberation and prediction. 

Fallacy of a single good; applied to utilitarianism; 
profit and personality; means and ends. 




Theory of final ends; aims as directive means; ends 
as justifying means; meaning well as an aim; wishes 
and aims. 

Desire for certainty; morals and probabilities; im- 
portance of generalizations. 

Object and consequence of desire; desire -and 
quiescence; self-deception in desire; desire needs 
intelligence; nature of idealism; living in the ideal. 

Subordination of activity to result; control of fu- 
ture; production and consummation; idealism and 
distant goals. 


Better and worse; morality a process; evolution 
and progress; optimism; Epicureanism; making 
others happy. 

Humane morals; natural law and morals; place of 

Elements in freedom; capacity in action; novel 
possibilities; force of desire. 

Conscience and responsibility; social pressure and 
opportunity; exaggeration of blame; importance of 
social psychology; category of right; the com- 
munity as religious symbol. 


"Give a dog a bad name and hang him." Human 
nature has been the dog of professional moralists, and 
consequences accord with the proverb. Man's nature 
has been regarded with suspicion, with fear, with sour 
looks, sometimes with enthusiasm for its possibilities 
but only when these were placed in contrast with its 
actualities. It has appeared to be so evilly disposed 
that the business of morality was to prune and curb 
it ; it would be thought better of if it could be replaced 
by something else. It has been supposed that morality 
would be quite superfluous were it not for the inherent 
weakness, bordering on depravity, of human nature. 
Some writers with a more genial conception have at- 
tributed the current blackening to theologians who have 
thought to honor the divine by disparaging the human. 
Theologians have doubtless taken a gloomier view of 
man than have pagans and secularists. But this ex- 
planation doesn't take us far. For after all these the- 
ologians are themselves human, and they would have 
been without influence if the human audience had not 
somehow responded to them. 

Morality is largely concerned with controlling human 
nature. When we are attempting to control anything 
we are acutely aware of what resists us. So moralists 
were led, perhaps, to think of human nature as evil 



because of its reluctance to- yield to control, its rebel- 
liousness under the yoke. But this explanation only 
raises another question. Why did morality set up 
rules so foreign to human nature? The ends it insisted 
upon, the regulations it imposed, were after all out- 
growths of human nature. Why then was human nature 
so averse to them? Moreover rules can be obeyed and 
ideals realized only as they appeal to something in hu- 
man nature and awaken in it an active response. Moral 
principles that exalt themselves by degrading human 
nature are in effect committing suicide. Or else they 
involve human nature in unending civil war, and treat 
it as a hopeless mess of contradictory forces. 

We are forced therefore to consider the nature and 
origin of that control of human nature with which 
morals has been occupied. And the fact which is forced 
upon us when we raise this question is the existence 
of classes. Control has been vested in an oligarchy. 
Indifference to regulation has grown in the gap which 
separates the ruled from the rulers. Parents, priests, 
chiefs, social censors have supplied aims, aims which 
were foreign to those upon whom they were imposed, 
to the young, laymen, ordinary folk ; a few have given 
and administered rule, and the mass have in a passable 
fashion and with reluctance obeyed. Everybody knows 
that good children are those who make as little trouble 
as possible for their elders, and since most of them 
cause a good deal of annoyance they must be naughty 
by nature. Generally speaking, good people have been 
those who did what they were told to do, and lack of 


eager compliance is a sign of something wrong in their 

But no matter how much men in authority have 
turned moral rules into an agency of class supremacy, 
any theory which attributes the origin of rule to de- 
liberate design is false. To take advantage of condi- 
tions after they have come into existence is one thing; 
to create them for the sake of an advantage to accrue 
is quite another thing. We must go back of the bare 
fact of social division into superior and inferior. To 
say that accident produced social conditions is to per- 
ceive they were not produced by intelligence. Lack of 
understanding of human nature is the primary cause 
of disregard for it. Lack of insight always ends in 
despising or else unreasoned admiration. When men 
had no scientific knowledge of physical nature they 
either passively submitted to it or sought to control it 
magically. What cannot be understood cannot be 
managed intelligently. It has to be forced into subjec- 
tion from without. The opaqueness of human nature 
to reason is equivalent to a belief in its intrinsic irregu- 
larity. Hence a decline in the authority of social 
oligarchy was accompanied by a rise of scientific interest 
in human nature. This means that the make-up and: 
working of human forces afford a basis for moral ideas 
and ideals. Our science of human nature in comparison 
with physical sciences is rudimentary, and morals 
which are concerned with the health, efficiency and 
happiness of a development of human nature are 
correspondingly elementary. These pages are a dis- 


cussion of some phases of the ethical change involved 
in positive respect for human nature when the 
latter is associated with scientific knowledge. We 
may anticipate the general nature of this change 
through considering the evils which have resulted from 
severing morals from the actualities of human physiol- 
ogy and psychology. There is a pathology of good- 
ness as well as of evil ; that is, of that sort of goodness 
which is nurtured by this separation. The badness of 
good people, for the most part recorded only in fiction, 
is the revenge taken by human nature for the injuries 
heaped upon it in the name of morality. In the first 
place, morals cut off from positive roots in man's nature 
is bound to be mainly negative. Practical emphasis 
falls upon avoidance, escape of evil, upon not doing 
things, observing prohibitions. Negative morals assume 
as many forms as there are types of temperament sub- 
ject to it. Its commonest form is the protective colora- 
tion of a neutral respectability, an insipidity of char- 
acter. For one man who thanks God that he is not 
as other men there are a thousand to offer thanks 
that they are as other men, sufficiently as others are 
to escape attention. Absence of social blame is the 
usual mark of goodness for it shows that evil has been 
avoided. Blame is most readily averted by being so 
much like everybody else that one passes unnoticed. 
Conventional morality is a drab morality, in which the 
only fatal thing is to be conspicuous. If there be flavor 
left in it, then some natural traits have somehow escaped 
being subdued. To be so good as to attract notice is 


to be priggish, too good for this world. The same 
psychology that brands the convicted criminal as for- 
ever a social outcast makes it the part of a gentleman 
not to obtrude virtues noticeably upon others. 

The Puritan is never popular, not even in a society 
of Puritans. In case of a pinch, the mass prefer to be 
good fellows rather than to be good men. Polite vice 
is preferable to eccentricity and ceases to be vice. 
Morals that professedly neglect human nature end by 
emphasizing those qualities of human nature that are 
most commonplace and average; they exaggerate the 
herd instinct to conformity. Professional guardians of 
morality who have been exacting with respect to them- 
selves have accepted avoidance of conspicuous evil as 
enough for the masses. One of the most instructive 
things in all human history is the system of concessions, 
tolerances, mitigations and reprieves which the Catholic 
Church with its official supernatural morality has de- 
vised for the multitude. Elevation of the spirit above 
everything natural is tempered by organized leniency 
for the frailties of flesh. To uphold an aloof realm of 
strictly ideal realities is admitted to be possible only 
for a few. Protestantism, except in its most zealous 
forms, has accomplished the same result by a sharp 
separation between religion and morality in which a 
higher justification by faith disposes at one stroke of 
daily lapses into the gregarious morals of average 

There are always ruder forceful natures who can- 
2iot tame themselves to the required level of colorless 


conformity. To them conventional morality appears 
as an organized futility; though they are usually un- 
conscious of their own attitude since they are heartily 
in favor of morality for the mass as making it easier 
to manage them. Their only standard is success, put- 
ting things over, getting things done. Being good is 
to them practically synonymous with ineff ectuality ; 
and accomplishment, achievement is its own justifica- 
tion. They know by experience that much is forgiven 
to those who succeed, and they leave goodness to the 
stupid, to those whom they qualify as boobs. Their 
gregarious nature finds sufficient outlet in the con- 
spicuous tribute they pay to all established institu- 
tions as guardians of ideal interests, and in their 
denunciations of all who openly defy conventionalized 
ideals. Or they discover that they are the chosen 
agents of a higher morality and walk subject to spe- 
cially ordained laws. Hypocrisy in the sense of a 
deliberate covering up of a will to evil by loud-voiced 
protestations of virtue is one of the rarest of occur- 
rences. But the combination in the same person of 
an intensely executive nature with a love of popular 
approval is bound, in the face of conventional morality, 
to produce what the critical term hypocrisy. 

Another reaction to the separation of morals from 
human nature is a romantic glorification of natural im- 
pulse as something superior to all moral claims. There 
are those who lack the persistent force of the executive 
will to break through conventions and to use them for 
their own purposes, but who unite sensitiveness with 


intensity of desire. Fastening upon the conventional 
element in morality, they hold that all morality is a 
conventionality hampering to the development of indi- 
viduality. Although appetites are the commonest things 
in human nature, the least distinctive or individualized, 
they identify unrestraint in satisfaction of appetite 
with free realization of individuality. They treat sub- 
jection to passion as a manifestation of freedom in the 
degree in which it shocks the bourgeois. The urgent 
need for a transvaluation of morals is caricatured by 
the notion that an avoidance of the avoidances of con- 
ventional morals constitutes positive achievement. 
While the executive type keeps its eyes on actual condi- 
tions so as to manipulate them, this school abrogates 
objective intelligence in behalf of sentiment, and with- 
draws into little coteries of emancipated souls. 

There are others who take seriously the idea of 
morals separated from the ordinary actualities of hu- 
manity and who attempt to live up to it. Some become 
engrossed in spiritual egotism. They are preoccupied 
T?ith the state of their character, concerned for the 
purity of their motives and the goodness of their souls. 
The exaltation of conceit which sometimes accompanies 
this absorption can produce a corrosive inhumanity 
which exceeds the possibilities of any other known form 
of selfishness. In other cases, persistent preoccupation 
with the thought of an ideal realm breeds morbid dis- 
content with surroundings, or induces a futile with- 
drawal into an inner world where all facts are fair to 
the eye. The needs of actual conditions are neglected, 


or dealt with in a half-hearted way, because in the light 
of the ideal they are so mean and sordid. To speak of 
evils, to strive seriously for change, shows a low mind. 
Or, again, the ideal becomes a refuge, an asylum, a way 
of escape from tiresome responsibilities. In varied ways 
men come to live in two worlds, one the actual, the other 
the ideal. Some are tortured by the sense of their 
irreconcilability. Others alternate between the two, 
compensating for the strains of renunciation involved 
in membership in the ideal realm by pleasureable ex- 
cursions into the delights of the actual. 

If we turn from concrete effects upon character to 
theoretical issues, we single out the discussion regarding 
freedom of will as typical of the consequences that come 
from separating morals from human nature. Men are 
wearied with bootless discussion, and anxious to dis- 
miss it as a metaphysical subtlety. But nevertheless 
it contains within itself the most practical of all moral 
questions, the nature of freedom and the means of its 
achieving. The separation of morals from human 
nature leads to a separation of human nature in its 
moral aspects from the rest of nature, and from ordi- 
nary social habits and endeavors which are found in 
business, civic life, the run of companionships and rec- 
reations. These things are thought of at most as places 
where moral notions need to be applied, not as places 
where moral ideas are to be studied and moral energies 
generated. In short, the severance of morals from 
human nature ends by driving morals inwards from the 
public open out-of-doors air and light of day into the 

obscurities and privacies of an inner life. The signifi- 
cance of the traditional discussion of free will is that 
it reflects precisely a separation of moral activity from 
nature and the public life of men. 

One has to turn from moral theories to the general 
human struggle for political, economic and religious 
liberty, for freedom of thought, speech, assemblage and 
creed, to find significant reality in the conception of 
freedom of will. Then one finds himself out of the 
stiflingly close atmosphere of an inner consciousness and 
in the open-air world. The cost of confining moral 
freedom to an inner region is the almost complete sev- 
erance of ethics from politics and economics. The for- 
mer is regarded as summed up in edifying exhortations, 
and the latter as connected with arts of expediency 
separated from larger issues of good. 

In short, there are two schools of social reform. One 
bases itself upon the notion of a morality which springs 
from an inner freedom, something mysteriously cooped 
up within personality. It asserts that the only way 
to change institutions is for men to purify their own 
hearts, and that when this has been accomplished, 
change of institutions will follow of itself. The other 
school denies the existence of any such inner power, and 
in so doing conceives that it has denied all moral free- 
dom. It says that men are made what they are by the 
forces of the environment, that human nature is purely 
malleable, and that till institutions are changed, nothing 
can be done. Clearly this leaves the outcome as hope- 
less as does an appeal to an inner rectitude and benevo- 


lence. For it provides no leverage for change of en- 
vironment. It throws us back upon accident, usually 
disguised as a necessary law of history or evolution, and 
trusts to some violent change, symbolized by civil war, 
to usher in an abrupt millennium. There is an alterna^ 
tive to being penned in between these two theories. We 
can recognize that all conduct is interaction between ele- 
ments of human nature and the environment, natural 
and social. Then we shall see that progress proceeds 
in two ways, and that freedom is found in that kind of 
interaction which maintains an environment in which 
human desire and choice count for something. There 
are in truth forces in man as well as without him. 
While they are infinitely frail in comparison with ex- 
terior forces, yet they may have the support of a fore- 
seeing and contriving intelligence. When we look at the 
problem as one of an adjustment to be intelligently 
attained, the issue shifts from within personality to an 
engineering issue, the establishment of arts of education 
and social guidance. 

The idea persists that there is something materialistic 
about natural science and that morals are degraded by 
having anything seriously to do with material things. 
If a sect should arise proclaiming that men ought to 
purify their lungs completely before they ever drew 
a breath it ought to win many adherents from professed 
moralists. For the neglect of sciences that deal spe- 
cifically with facts of the natural and social environ- 
ment leads to a side-tracking of moral forces into an 
unreal privacy of an unreal self. It is impossible to 


say how much of the remediable suffering of the world 
is due to the fact that physical science is looked upon 
as merely physical. It is impossible to say how much 
of the unnecessary slavery of the world is due to the 
conception that moral issues can be settled within con- 
science or human sentiment apart from consistent 
study of facts and application of specific knowledge 
in industry, law and politics. Outside of manu- 
facturing and transportation, science gets its chance 
in war. These facts perpetuate war and the hardest, 
most brutal side of modern industry. Each sign of 
disregard for the moral potentialities of physical 
science drafts the conscience of mankind away from 
concern with the interactions of man and nature which 
must be mastered if freedom is to be a reality. It di- 
verts intelligence to anxious preoccupation with the un- 
realities of a purely inner life, or strengthens reliance 
upon outbursts of sentimental affection. The masses 
swarm to the occult for assistance. The cultivated 
smile contemptuously. They might smile, as the say- 
ing goes, out of the other side of their mouths if they 
realized how recourse to the occult exhibits the prac- 
tical logic of their own beliefs. For both rest upon a 
separation of moral ideas and feelings from knowable 
facts of life, man and the world. 

It is not pretended that a moral theory based upon 
realities of human nature and a study of the specific 
connections of these realities with those of physical 
science would do away with moral struggle and defeat. 
It would not make the moral life as simple a matter as 


wending one's way along a well lighted boulevard. All 
action is an invasion of the future, of the unknown. 
Conflict and uncertainty are ultimate traits. But 
morals based upon concern with facts and . deriving 
guidance from knowledge of them would at least locate 
the points of effective endeavor and would focus avail- 
able resources upon them. It would put an end to the 
impossible attempt to live in two unrelated worlds. It 
would destroy fixed distinction between the human 
and the physical, as well as that between the moral and 
the industrial and political. A morals based on study 
of human nature instead of upon disregard for it 
would find the facts of man continuous with those of 
the rest of nature and would thereby ally ethics with 
physics and biology. It would find the nature and 
activities of one person coterminous with those of other 
human beings, and therefore link ethics with the study 
of history, sociology, law and economics. 

Such a morals would not automatically solve moral 
problems, nor resolve perplexities. But it would enable 
us to state problems in such forms that action could 
be courageously and intelligently directed to their solu- 
tion. It would not assure us against failure, but it 
would render failure a source of instruction. It would 
not protect us against the future emergence of equally 
serious moral difficulties, but it would enable us to ap- 
proach the always recurring troubles with a fund of 
growing knowledge which would add significant value? 
to our conduct even when we overtly failed as we 
should continue to do. Until the integrity of morals 


with human nature and of both with the environment is 
recognized, we shall be deprived of the aid of past 
experience to cope with the most acute and deep prob- 
lems of life. Accurate and extensive knowledge will 
continue to operate only in dealing with purely tech- 
nical problems. The intelligent acknowledgment of 
the continuity of nature, man and society will alone 
secure a growth of morals which will be serious without 
being fanatical, aspiring without sentimentality, 
adapted to reality without conventionality, sensible 
without taking the form of calculation of profits, ideal- 
istic without being romantic. 



HABITS may be profitably compared to physiological 
functions, like breathing, digesting. The latter are, to 
be sure, involuntary, while habits are acquired. But 
important as is this difference for many purposes it 
should not conceal the fact that habits are like func- 
tions in many respects, and especially in requiring the 
cooperation of organism and environment. Breathing 
is an affair of the air as truly as of the lungs ; digesting 
an affair of food as truly as of tissues of stomach. 
Seeing involves light just as certainly as it does the 
eye and optic nerve. Walking implicates the ground 
as well as the legs ; speech demands physical air and 
human companionship and audience as well as vocal 
organs. We may shift from the biological to the math- 
ematical use of the word function, and say that natural 
operations like breathing and digesting, acquired ones 
like speech and honesty, are functions of the surround- 
ings as truly as of a person. They are things done by 
the environment by means of organic structures or 
acquired dispositions. The same air that under cer- 
tain conditions ruffles the pool or wrecks buildings, 



under other conditions purifies the blood and conveys 
thought. The outcome depends upon what air acts 
upon. The social environment acts through native im- 
pulses and speech and moral habitudes manifest them- 
selves. There are specific good reasons for the usual 
attribution of acts to the person from whom they im- 
mediately proceed. But to convert this special ref- 
erence into a belief of exclusive ownership is as mis- 
leading as to suppose that breathing and digesting are 
complete within the human body. To get a rational 
basis for moral discussion we must begin with recogniz- 
ing that functions and habits are ways of using and 
incorporating the environment in which the latter has 
its say as surely as the former. 

We may borrow words from a context less technical 
than that of biology, and convey the same idea by say- 
ing that habits are arts. They involve skill of sensory 
and motor organs, cunning or craft, and objective 
materials. They assimilate objective energies, and 
eventuate in command of environment. They require 
order, discipline, and manifest technique. They have 
a beginning, middle and end. Each stage marks prog- 
ress in dealing with materials and tools, advance in con- 
verting material to active use. We should laugh at any 
one who said that he was master of stone working, but 
that the art was cooped up within himself and in no wise 
dependent upon support from objects and assistance 
from tools. 

In morals we are however quite accustomed to such 
a fatuity. Moral dispositions are thought of as be- 



longing exclusively to a self. The self is thereby isolated 
from natural and social surroundings. A whole school 
of morals flourishes upon capital drawn from restrict- 
ing morals to character and then separating character 
from conduct, motives from actual deeds. Recognition 
of the analogy of moral action with functions and arts 
uproots the causes which have made morals subjective 
and " individualistic." It brings morals to earth, and 
if they still aspire to heaven it is to the heavens of the 
earth, and not to another world. Honesty, chastity, 
malice, peevishness, courage, triviality, industry, irre- 
sponsibility are not private possessions of a person. 
They are working adaptations of personal capacities 
with environing forces. All virtues and vices, are jiabits 
which incorporate objective forces. They are^inter- 
actions of elements contributed by the make-up of an 
"'tb figments supplied by the out-door^wbrl3. 

They can be studieoaT ob j ectively^as physiological 
functions, and they can be modified by change of either 
personal or social elements. 

If an individual were alone in the world, he would 
form his habits (assuming the impossible, namely, that 
he would be able to form them) in a moral vacuum. 
They would belong to him alone, or to him only in ref- 
erence to physical forces. Responsibility and virtue 
would be his alone. But since habits involve the sup- 
port of environing conditions, a society or some specific 
group of fellow-men, is always accessory before and 
after the fact. Some activity proceeds from a man ; 
then it sets up reactions in the surroundings. Others 


approve, disapprove, protest, encourage, share and re- 
sist. Even letting a man alone is a definite response. 
Envy, admiration and imitation are complicities. Neu- 
trality is non-existent. Conduct is always shared; this 
is the difference between it and a physiological process. 
It is not an ethical " ou^ht " that conduct should be 
social. It is social, whether bad or good. 

Washing one'sTiands of the guilt of others is a way 
of sharing guilt so far as it encourages in others a 
vicious way of action. Non-resistance to evil which 
takes the form of paying no attention to it is a way 
of promoting it. The desire of an individual to keep 
his own conscience stainless by standing aloof from 
badness may be a sure means of causing evil and thus 
of creating personal responsibility for it. Yet there are 
circumstances in which passive resistance may be the 
most effective form of nullification of wrong action, 
or in which heaping coals of fire on the evil-doer may 
be the most effective way of transforming conduct. To 
sentimentalize over a criminal to " forgive " because 
of a glow of feeling is to incur liability for production 
of criminals. But to suppose that infliction of retibu- 
tive suffering suffices, without reference to concrete 
consequences, is to leave untouched old causes of crim- 
inality and to create new ones by fostering revenge and 
brutality. The abstract theory of justice which de- 
mands the " vindication " of law irrespective of in- 
struction and reform of the wrong-doer is as much a 
refusal to recognize responsibility as is the sentimental 
gush which makes a suffering victim out of a criminal. 


Courses of action which put the blame exclusively 
on a person as if his evil will were the sole cause of 
wrong-doing and those which condone offense on ac- 
count of the share of social conditions in producing 
bad disposition, are equally ways of making an unreal 
separation of man from his surroundings, mind from 
the world. Causes for an act always exist, but causes 
are not excuses. Questions of causation are physical, 
not moral except when they concern future conse- 
quences. It is as causes of future actions that excuses 
and accusations alike must be considered. At present 
we give way to resentful passion, and then " rational- 
ize " our surrender by calling it a vindication of justice. 
Our entire tradition regarding punitive justice tends 
to prevent recognition of social partnership in produc- 
ing crime; it falls in with a belief in metaphysical 
free-will. By killing an evil-doer or shutting him up 
behind stone walls, we are enabled to forget both him. 
and our part in creating him. Society excuses itself 
by laying the blame on the criminal ; he retorts by put- 
ting the blame on bad early surroundings, the tempta- 
tions of others, lack of opportunities, and the persecu- 
tions of officers of the law. Both are right, except in 
the wholesale character of their recriminations. But 
the effect on both sides is to throw the whole matter 
back into antecedent causation, a method which refuses 
to bring the matter to truly moral judgment. For 
morals has to do with acts still within our control, acts 
still to be performed. No amount of guilt on the part 


of the evil-doer absolves us from responsibility for the 
consequences upon him and others of our way of treat- 
ing him, or from our continuing responsibility for the 
conditions under which persons develop perverse habits. 
We need to discriminate between the physical and the 
moral question. The former concerns what has hap- 
pened, and how it happened. To consider this question 
is indispensable to morals. Without an answer to it we 
cannot tell what forces are at work nor how to direct 
our actions so as to improve conditions. Until we 
know the conditions which have helped form the char- 
acters we approve and disapprove, our efforts to create 
the one and do away with the other will be blind and 
halting. But the moral issue concerns the future. It is 
prospective. To content ourselves with pronouncing 
judgments of merit and demerit without reference to 
the fact that our judgments are themselves facts which 
have consequences and that their value depends upon 
their consequences, is complacently to dodge the moral 
issue, perhaps even to indulge ourselves in pleasurable 
passion just as the person we condemn once indulged 
himself. The moral problem is that of modifying the 
factors which now influence future results. To change 
the working character or will of another we have to 
alter objective conditions which enter into his habits. 
Our own schemes of judgment, of assigning blame and 
praise, of awarding punishment and honor, are part 
of these conditions. 

In practical life, there are many recognitions of the 


part played by social factors in generating personal 
traits. One of them is our habit of making social 
classifications. We attribute distinctive characteristics 
to rich and poor, slum-dweller and captain of industry, 
rustic and suburbanite, officials, politicians, professors, 
to members of races, sets and parties. These judg- 
ments are usually too coarse to be of much use. But 
they show our practical awareness that personal traits 
are functions of social situations. When we generalize 
this perception and act upon it intelligently we are 
committed by it to recognize that we change character 
from worse to better only by changing conditions 
among which, once more, are our own ways of dealing 
with the one we judge. We cannot change habit di- 
rectly: that notion is magic. But we can change it 
indirectly by modifying conditions, by an intelligent 
selecting and weighting of the objects which engage 
attention and which influence the fulfilment of desires. 

A savage can travel after a fashion in a jungle. 
Civilized activity is too complex to be carried on with- 
out smoothed roads. It requires signals and junction 
points; traffic authorities and means of easy and rapid 
transportation. It demands a congenial, antecedently 
prepared environment. Without it, civilization would 
relapse into barbarism in spite of the best of subjective 
intention and internal good disposition. The eternal 
dignity of labor and art lies in their effecting that per- 
manent reshaping of environment which is the substan- 
tial foundation of future security and progress. In- 


dividuals flourish and wither away like the grass of the 
fields. But the fruits of their work endure and make 
possible the development of further activities having 
fuller significance. It is of grace not of ourselves that 
we lead civilized lives. There is sound sense in the old 
pagan notion thaj gratitude is the root of all virtue^ 
Loyalty to whatever in the established environment 
makes a life of excellence possible is the beginning of 
all progress. The best we can accomplish for posterity 
is to transmit unimpaired and with some increment of 
meaning the environment that makes it possible to 
maintain the habits of decent and refined~lileT Our 

individual habits are limes m forming the endless chain 
of humanity. Their significance depends upon the en- 
vironment inherited from our forerunners, and it is 
enhanced as we foresee the fruits of our labors in the 
world in which our successors live. 

For however much has been done, there always re- 
mains more to do. We can retain and transmit our own 
heritage only by constant remaking of our own environ- 
ment. Piety to the past is not for its own sake nor for 
the sake of the past, but for the sake of a present so 
secure and enriched that it will create a yet better 
future. Individuals with their exhortations, their 
preachings and scoldings, their inner aspirations and 
sentiments have disappeared, but their habits endure, 
because these habits incorporate objective conditions in 
themselves. So will it be with our activities. We may 
desire abolition of war, industrial justice, greater 


equality of opportunity for all. But no amount of 
preaching good will or the golden rule or cultivation 
of sentiments of love and equity will accomplish the 
results. There must^ be change in objective arrange- 
ments and mstitutiQQS. We muslTwork oTTthe TmvTron- 
ment not merely on the hearts of men. To think other- 
wise is to suppose that flowers can be raised in a desert 
or motor cars run in a jungle. Both things can happen 
and without a miracle. But only by first changing the 
jungle and desert. 

Yet the distinctively personal or subjective factors in 
habit count. Taste for flowers may be the initial step 
in building reservoirs and irrigation canals. The stim- 
ulation of desire and effort is one preliminary in the 
change of surroundings. While personal exhortation, 
advice and instruction is a feeble stimulus compared 
with that which steadily proceeds from the impersonal 
forces and depersonalized habitudes of the environment, 
yet they may start the latter going. Taste, ap- 
preciation and effort always spring from some accom- 
plished objective situation. They have objective 
support; they represent the liberation of something 
formerly accomplished so that it is useful in further 
operation. A genuine appreciation of the beauty of 
flowers is not generated within a self-enclosed conscious- 
ness. It reflects a world in which beautiful flowers have 
already grown and been enjoyed. Taste and desire 
represent a prior objective fact recurring in action to 
secure perpetuation and extension. Desire for flowers 
comes after actual enjoyment of flowers. But it comes 


before the work that makes the desert blossom, it comes 
before cultivation of plants. Everyjdeal is preceded by 
anactuality iJbut the ideal is more than a repetition 
in inner image of the actual. ^Jt^r^je^is^LsecjireiLand 
wider and_JulleiL_arjn_^iniL_g^^ pre- 

viously experienced in a precarious, accidental, fleeting 



It is a significant fact that in order to appreciate 
the peculiar place of habit in activity we have to be- 
take ourselves to bad habits, foolish idling, gambling, 
addiction to liquor and drugs. When we think of such 
its, the union of habit with desire and with pro- 
pulsive power is forced upon us. When we think of 
habits in terms of walking, playing a musical instru- 
ment, typewriting, we are much given to thinking of 
habits as technical abilities existing apart from our 
likings and as lacking in urgent impulsion. We think 
of them as passive tools waiting to be called into action 
from without. A bad habit suggests an inherent tend- 
ency to action and also a hold, command over us. It 
makes us do things we are ashamed of, things which we 
tell ourselves we prefer not to do. It overrides our 
formal resolutions, our conscious decisions. When we 
are honest with ourselves we acknowledge that a habit 
has this power because it is so intimately a part of our- 
selves. It has a hold upon us because we are the habit. 

Our self-love, our refusal to face facts, combined 
perhaps with a sense of a possible better although 
unrealized self, leads us to eject the habit from the 
thought of ourselves and conceive it as an evil power 
which has somehow overcome us. We feed our conceit 
by recalling that the habit was not deliberately formed ; 
we never intended to become idlers or gamblers or roues. 



And how can anything be deeply ourselves which de- 
veloped accidentally, without set intention? These 
traits of a bad habit are precisely the things which are 
most instructive about all habits and about ourselves. 
They teach us that all habits are affections, that all 
have projectile power, and that f( predisposition 
formed by a number of specific acts is an immensely 
more intimate and fundamental part of ourselves than 
are vague, general, conscious phojces. All habits are 
demands for certain kinds of activity; and they con- 
stitute the self. In any intelligible sense of the word 
will, they are will. They form our effective desires anc 
they furnish us with our working capacities. They 
rule our thoughts, determining which shall appear and 
be strong and which shall pass from light into 

We may think of habits as means, waiting, like tools 
in a box, to be used by conscious resolve. But they 
are something more than that. They are active means, 
means that project themselves, energetic and dominat- 
ing ways of acting. We need to distinguish between 
materials, tools and means proper. Nails and boards 
are not strictly speaking means of a box. They are 
only materials for making it. Even the saw and ham- 
mer are means only when they are employed in some 
actual making. Otherwise they are tools, or potential 
means. They are actual means only when brought in 
conjunction with eye, arm and hand in some specific 
operation. And eye, arm and hand are, correspond- 
ingly, means proper only when they are in active opera- 


tion. And whenever they are in action they a**e coop- 
erating with external materials and energies. Without 
support from beyond themselves the eye stares blankly 
and the hand moves fumblingly. They are means only 
when they enter into organization with things which 
independently accomplish definite results. These organ- 
izations are habits. 

This fact cuts two ways. Except in a contingent 
sense, with an " if," neither external materials nor bod- 
ily and mental organs are in themselves means. They 
have to be employed in coordinated conjunction with 
one another to be actual means, or habits. This state- 
ment may seem like the formulation in technical lan- 
guage of a common-place. But belief in magic has 
played a large part in human history. And the es- 
sence of all hocus-pocus is the supposition that results 
can be accomplished without the joint adaptation to 
each other of human powers and physical conditions. 
A desire for rain may induce men to wave willow 
branches and to sprinkle water. The reaction is nat- 
ural and innocent. But men then go on to believe that 
their act has immediate power to bring rain without 
the cooperation of intermediate conditions of nature. 
This is magic ; while it may be natural or spontaneous, 
it is not innocent. It obstructs intelligent study of 
operative conditions and wastes human desire and effort 
in futilities. 

Belief in magic did not cease when the coarser forms 
of superstitious practice ceased. The principle of 
magic is found whenever it is hoped to get results 


without intelligent control of means; and also when it 
is supposed that means can exist and yet remain inert 
and inoperative. In morals and politics such expecta- 
tions still prevail, and in so far the most important 
phases of human action are still affected by magic. We 
think that by feeling strongly enough about something, 
by wishing hard enough, we can get a desirable result, 
such as virtuous execution of a good resolve, or peace 
among nations, or good will in industry. We slur over 
the necessity of the cooperative action of objective 
conditions, and the fact that this cooperation is as- 
sured only by persistent and close study. Or, on the 
other hand, we fancy we can get these results by 
external machinery, by tools or potential means, with- 
out a corresponding functioning of human desires and 
capacities. Often times these two false and contradic- 
tory beliefs are combined in the same person. The man 
who feels that his virtues are his own personal accom- 
plishments is likely to be also the one who thinks that 
by passing laws he can throw the fear of God into 
others and make them virtuous by edict and prohib- 
itory mandate. 

Recently a friend remarked to me that there was one 
superstition current among even cultivated persons. 
They suppose that if one is told what to do, if the 
right end is pointed to them, all that is required in 
order to bring about the right act is will or wish on 
the part of the one who is to act. He used as an illus- 
tration the matter of physical posture ; the assumption 
is that if a man is told to stand up straight, all that 


is further needed is wish and effort on his part, and 
the deed is done. He pointed out that this belief is on 
a par with primitive magic in its neglect of attention 
to the means which are involved in reaching an end. 
And he went on to say that the prevalence of this be- 
lief, starting with false notions about the control of 
the body and extending to control of mind and char- 
acter, is the greatest bar to intelligent social progress. 
It bars the way because it makes us neglect intelligent 
inquiry to discover the means which will produce a 
desired result, and intelligent invention to procure the 
means. In short, it leaves out the importance of intelli- 
gently controlled habit. 

We may cite his illustration of the real nature of a 
physical aim or order and its execution in its contrast 
with the current false notion.* A man who has a bad 
habitual posture tells himself, or is told, to stand up 
straight. If he is interested and responds, he braces 
himself, goes through certain movements, and it is as- 
sumed that the desired result is substantially attained; 
and that the position is retained at least as long as 
the man keeps the idea or order in his mind. Consider 
the assumptions which are here made. It is implied 
that the means or effective conditions of the reali- 
zation of a purpose exist independently of established 
habit and even that they may be set in motion in op- 
position to habit. It is assumed that means are there, 
so that the failure to stand erect is wholly a matter of 
failure of purpose and desire. It needs paralysis or 

I refer to Alexander, " Man's Supreme Inheritance." 


a broken leg or some other equally gross phenomenon 
to make us appreciate the importance of objective 

Now in fact a man who can stand properly does so, 
and only a man who can, does. In the former case, 
fiats of will are unnecessary, and in the latter useless. 
A man who does not stand properly forms a habit of 
standing improperly, a positive, forceful habit. The 
common implication that his mistake is merely nega- 
tive, that he is simply failing to do the right thing, and 
that the failure can be made good by an order of will 
is absurd. One might as well suppose that the man 
who is a slave of whiskey-drinking is merely one who 
fails to drink water. Conditions have been formed for 
producing a bad result, and the bad result will occur 
as long as those conditions exist. They can no more 
be dismissed by a direct effort of will than the condi- 
tions which create drought can be dispelled by whistling 
for wind. It is as reasonable to expect a fire to go out 
when it is ordered to stop burning as to suppose that 
a man can stand straight in consequence of a direct 
action of thought and desire. The fire can be put out 
only by changing objective conditions; it is the same 
with rectification of bad posture. 

Of course something happens when a man acts upon 
his idea of standing straight. For a little while, he 
stands differently, but only a different kind of badly. 
He then takes the unaccustomed feeling which accom- 
panies his unusual stand as evidence that he is now 
standing right. But there are many ways of standing 


badly, and he has simply shifted his usual way to a 
compensatory bad way at some opposite extreme. 
When we realize this fact, we are likely to suppose that 
it exists because control of the body is physical and 
hence is external to mind and will. Transfer the com- 
mand inside character and mind, and it is fancied that 
an idea of an end and the desire to realize it will take 
immediate effect. After we get to the point of recog- 
nizing that_habits must intervene between wish and 
execution in the case of bodily acts, we still cherish 
the illusion that they can be dispensed with in the case 
of mental and moral acts. Thus the net result is to 
make us sharpen the distinction between non-moral and 
moral activities, and to lead us to confine the latter 
strictly within a private, immaterial realm. But in 
fact, formation of ideas as_wglj L _a3^ their execution de- 
pends upon habit. // we could form a correct idea 
without a correct habit, then possibly we could carry 
it out irrespective of habit. But a wish gets definite 
form only in connection with an idea, and an idea gets 
shape and consistency only when it has a habit back of 
it. Only when a man can already perform an act of 
standing straight does he know what it is like to have 
a right posture and only then can he summon the 
idea required for proper execution. The act must come 
before the thought, and a habit before an ability to 
evoke the thought at will. Ordinary psychology re- 
verses the actual state of affairs. 

Ideas, thoughts of ends, are not spontaneously gen- 
erated. There is no immaculate conception of mean- 


ings or purposes. Reason pure of all influence from 
prior habit is a fiction. But pure sensations out of 
which ideas can be framed apart from habit are equally 
fictitious. The sensations and ideas which are the 
" stuff "of thought and purpose are alike affected by 
habits manifested in the acts which give rise to sen- 
sations and meanings. The dependence of thought, or 
the more intellectual factor in our conceptions, upon 
prior experience is usually admitted. But those who 
attack the notion of thought pure from the influence 
of experience, usually identify experience with sensa- 
tions impressed upon an empty mind. They there- 
fore replace the theory of unmixed thoughts with that of 
pure unmixed sensations as the stuff of all conceptions, 
purposes and beliefs. But distinct and independent 
sensory qualities, far from being original elements, are 
the products of a highly skilled analysis which disposes 
of immense technical scientific resources. To be able to 
single out a definitive sensory element in any field is 
evidence of a high degree of previous training, that is, 
of well-formed habits. A moderate amount of observa- 
tion of a child will suffice to reveal that even such gross 
discriminations as black, white, red, green, are the re- 
sult of some years of active dealings with things in the 
course of which habits have been set up. It is not such 
a simple matter to have a clear-cut sensation. The 
latter is a sign of training, skill, habit. 

Admission that the idea of, say, standing erect is 
dependent upon sensory materials is, therefore equiva- 
lent to recognition that it is dependent upon the 


habitual attitudes which govern concrete sensory ma- 
terials. The medium of habit filters all the material 
that reaches our perception and thought. The filter is 
not, however, chemically pure. It is a reagent which 
adds new qualities and rearranges what is received. 
Our ideas truly depend upon experience, but so do our 
sensations. And the experience upon which they both 
depend is the operation of habits originally of in- 
stincts. Thus our purposes and commands regarding 
action (whether physical or moral) come to us through 
the refracting medium of bodily and moral habits. In- 
ability to think aright is sufficiently striking to have 
caught the attention of moralists. But a false psy- 
chology has led them to interpret it as due to a neces- 
sary conflict of flesh and spirit, not as an indication 
that our ideas are as dependent, to say the least, upon 
our habits as are our acts upon our conscious thoughts 
and purposes. 

Only the man who can maintain a correct posture 
has the stuff out of which to form that idea of standing 
erect which can be the starting point of a right act. 
Only the man whose habits are already good can know 
what the good is. Immediate, seemingly instinctive, 
feeling of the direction and end of various lines of be- 
havior is in reality the feeling of habits working below 
direct consciousness. The psychology of illusions of 
perception is full of illustrations of the distortion in- 
troduced by habit into observation of objects. The 
same fact accounts for the intuitive element in judg- 
ments of action, an element which is valuable or the 


reverse in accord with the quality of dominant habits. 
For, as Aristotle remarked, the untutored moral per- 
ceptions of a good man are usually trustworthy, those 
of a bad character, not. (But he should have added 
that the influence of social custom as well as personal 
habit has to be taken into account in estimating who 
is the good man and the good judge.) 

What is true of the dependence of execution of an 
idea upon habit is true, then, of the formation and 
quality of the idea. Suppose that by a happy chance 
a right concrete idea or purpose concrete, not simply 
correct in words has been hit upon: What happens 
when one with an incorrect habit tries to act in accord 
with it? Clearly the idea can be carried into execution 
only with a mechanism already there. If this is de- 
fective or perverted, the best intention in the world will 
yield bad results. In the case of no other engine does 
one suppose that a defective machine will turn out good 
goods simply because it is invited to. Everywhere else 
we recognize that the design and structure of the agency 
employed tell directly upon the work done. Given a 
bad habit and the " will " or mental direction to get a 
good result, and the actual happening is a reverse or 
looking-glass manifestation of the usual fault a com- 
pensatory twist in the opposite direction. Refusal 
to recognize this fact only leads to a separation of mind 
from body, and to supposing that mental or " psychi- 
cal " mechanisms are different in kind from those of 
bodily operations and independent of them. So deep 
seated is this notion that even so " scientific " a theory 


as modern psycho-analysis thinks that mental habits 
can be straightened out by some kind of purely psychi- 
cal manipulation without reference to the distortions 
of sensation and perception which are due to bad bodily 
sets. The other side of the error is found in the notion 
of " scientific " nerve physiologists that it is only neces- 
sary to locate a particular diseased cell or local lesion, 
independent of the whole complex of organic habits, in 
order to rectify conduct. 

Means are means; they are intermediates, middle 
terms. To grasp this fact is to have done with the 
ordinary dualism of means and ends. The " end " is 
merely a series of acts viewed at a remote stage; and 
a means is merely the series viewed at an earlier one. 
The distinction of means and end arises in surveying 
the course of a proposed line of action, a connected 
series in time. The " end " is the last act thought of ; 
the means are the acts to be performed prior to it in 
time. To reach an end we must take our mind off from 
it and attend to the act which is next to be performed. 
We must make that the end. The only exception to 
this statement is in cases where customary habit de- 
termines the course of the series. Then all that is 
wanted is a cue to set it off. But when the proposed 
,end involves any deviation from usual action, or any 
rectification of it as in the case of standing straight 
then the main thing is to find some act which is dif- 
ferent from the usual one. The discovery and per- 
formance of this unaccustomed act is the " end " to 
which we must devote all attention. Otherwise we shall 


simply do the old thing over again, no matter what is 
our conscious command. The only way of accomplish- 
ing this discovery is through a flank movement. We 
must stop even thinking of standing up straight. To 
think of it is fatal, for it commits us to the operation of 
an established habit of standing wrong. We must find 
an act within our power which is disconnected from any 
thought about standing. We must start to do another 
thing which on one side inhibits our falling into the 
customary bad position and on the other side is the 
beginning of a series of acts which may lead into the 
correct posture.* The hard-drinker who keeps think- 
ing of not drinking is doing what he can to initiate the 
acts which lead to drinking. He is starting with the 
stimulus to his habit. To succeed he must find some 
positive interest or line of action which will inhibit the 
drinking series and which by instituting another course 
of action will bring him to his desired end. In short, 
the man's true aim is to discover some course of action, 
having nothing to do with the habit of drink or stand- 
ing erect, which will take him where he wants to go. 
The discovery of this other series is at once his means 
and his end. Until one takes intermediate acts seri- 
ously enough to treat them as ends, one wastes one's 
time in any effort at change of habits. Of the inter- 
mediate acts, the most important is the next one. The 
first or earliest means is the most important end to 


*The technique of this process is stated in the book of Mr. 
Alexander already referred to, and the theoretical statement given 
is borrowed from Mr. Alexander's analysis. 


Means and ends are two names for the same reality. 
The terms denote not a division in reality but a dis- 
tinction in judgment. Without understanding this fact 
we cannot understand the nature of habits nor can we 
pass beyond the usual separation of the moral and 
non-moral in conduct. " End " is a name for a series 
of acts taken collectively like the term army. 
" Means " is a name for the same series taken distrib- 
utively like this soldier, that officer. To think of the 
end signifies to extend and enlarge our view of the act 
to be performed. It means to look at the next act in 
perspective, not permitting it to occupy the entire field 
of vision. To bear the end in mind signifies that we 
should not stop thinking about our next act until we 
form some reasonably clear idea of the course of action 
to which it commits us. To attain a remote end means 
on the other hand to treat the end as a series of means. 
To say that an end is remote or distant, to say in fact 
that it is an end at all, is equivalent to saying that 
obstacles intervene between us and it. If, however, it 
remains a distant end, it becomes a mere end, that is a 
dream. As soon as we have projected it, we must begin 
to work backward in thought. We must change what 
is to be done into a how, the means whereby. The 
end thus re-appears as a series of " what nexts," and the 
what next of chief importance is the one nearest the 
present state of the one acting. Only as the end is 
converted into means is it definitely conceived, or in- 
tellectually defined, to say nothing of being executable. 
Just as end, it is vague, cloudy, impressionistic. We 


do not know what we are really after until a course of 
action is mentally worked out. Aladdin with his lamp 
could dispense with translating ends into means, but no 
.one else can do so. 

Now the thing which is closest to us, the means 
within our power, is a habit. ^Some habit impeded by 
circumstances is the source of the projection of the end. 
It is also the primary means in its realization. The 
habit is propulsive and moves anyway toward some end. 
or re -j$, whether it is projected as an end-in-view or 
not. The man who can walk does walk; the man who 
can talk does converse if only with himself. How is 
this statement to be reconciled with the fact that we 
are not always walking and talking; that our habits 
seem so often to be laten^ ympprflt i i vp?> S"^V> inactivity 
holds only of overt, visibly obvious operation. In 
actuality j;ach habit operates all the timr pf wnkittfT' 
lifej^ihough like a member of a crew taking his turn 
at the wheel, its operation becomes the dominantly_ 
characteristic trait of an act only occasionally or 

The habit of walking is expressed in what a man 
sees when he keeps still, even in dreams. The recog- 
nition of distances and directions of things from his 
place at rest is the obvious proof of this statement. 
The habit of locomotion is latent in the sense that it is 
covered up, counteracted, by a habit of seeing which is 
definitely at the fore. But counteraction is not sup- 
pression. Locomotion is a potential energy, not in 
any metaphysical sense, but in the physical sense in 


which potential energy as well as kinetic has to be taken 
account of in any scientific description. Everything 
that a man who has the habit of locomotion does and 
thinks he does and thinks differently on that account. 
This fact is recognized in current psychology, but is 
falsified into an association of sensations. Were it not 
for the continued operation of all habits in every act, 
no such thing as character could exist. There would 
be simply a bundle, an untied bundle at that, of isolated 
acts. Character is the Interpenetration of habits. If 
each habit existed in an insulated compartment and 
operated without affecting or being affected by others, 
character would not exist. That is, ^conduct would lack 
unity being only a juxtaposition of jjJisconnected_jeflc- 
tions to separated situations. But since environments 
overlap, since situations are continuous and those re- 
mote from one another contain like elements, acgntHro- 
ous modification of habits by one_anpther is constantly 
going on. A man may give himself away in a look or 
a gesture. Character can be read through the medium 
of individual acts. 

Of course interpenetration is never total. It is most 
marked in what we call strong characters. Integration 
is an achievement rather than a datum. ^A_jgeak, jjn^" 
stable, vacillating character is one in which different 
habits alternate with one another rather than embody 
one another. The strength, solidity of a habit is not 
its own possession but is due to reinforcement by the 
force of other habits which it absorbs into itself. 
Routine specialization always works against interpene- 


tration. Men with " pigeon-hole " minds are not in- 
frequent. Their diverse standards and methods of 
judgment for scientific, religious, political matters tes- 
tify to isolated compartmental habits of action. Char- 
acter that is unable to undergo successfully the strain 
of thought and effort required to bring competing 
tendencies into a unity, builds up barriers between 
different systems of likes and dislikes. The emotional 
stress incident to conflict is avoided not by readjust- 
ment but by effort at confinement. Yet the exception 
proves the rule. Such persons are successful in keeping 
different ways of reacting apart from one another in 
consciousness rather than in action. Their character 
is marked by stigmata resulting from this division. 
The mutual modification of habits 

enables us to define jhj^jiature ^? the moral situation. 
It is not necessary nor advisable to be always consid- 
ering the interaction of h^bits__wjth_one_a.nother, that 
is to say the effect of a particular habit upon char- 
acter which is a name for the total interaction. Such 
consideration distracts attention from the problem of 
building up an effective habit. A man who is learning 
French, or chess-playing or engineering has his hands 
full with his particular occupation. He would be con- 
fused and hampered by constant inquiry into its effect 
upon character. He would resemble the centipede who 
by trying to think of the movement of each leg in re- 
lation to all the others was rendered unable to travel. 
At any given time, certain habits must be taken for 
granted as a matter of course. Their operation is not 


a matter of moral judgment. They are treated as 
technical, recreational, professional, hygienic or eco- 
nomic or esthetic rather than moral. To lug in morals, 
or ulterior effect on character at every point, is to 
cultivate moral valetudinarianism or priggish posing. 
Nevertheless any act, even that one which passes ordi- 
narily as trivial, may entail such consequences for habit 
and character as upon occasion to require judgment 
from the standpoint of the whole body of conduct. It 
then comes under moral scrutiny. To know when to 
leave acts without distinctive moral judgment and 
when to subject them to it is itself a large factor in 
morality. The serious matter is that this relative 
pragmatic, or intellectual, distinction between the moral 
and non-moral, has been solidified into a fixed and abso- 
lute distinction, so that some acts are popularly re- 
garded as forever within and others forever without the 
moral domain. From this fatal error recognition of the 
relations of one habit to others preserves us. For it 
makes us see that character is the name given to the 
working interaction of habits, and that the cumulative 
effect of insensible modifications worked by a particular 
habit in the body of preferences may at any moment 
require attention. 

The word habit may seem twisted somewhat from 
its customary use when employed as we have been using 
it. But we need a word to express that kind of human 
activity which is influenced by prior activity and in 
that sense acquired; which contains within itself a cer- 
,tain ordering or systematization of minor elements of 


action; which is projective, dynamic in quality, ready 
for overt manifestation ; and which is operative in some 
subdued subordinate ,form even when not obviously 
dominating activity. Habit even in its ordinary usage 
comes nearer to denoting these facts than any other 
word. If the facts are lecognized we may also use the 
words attitude and disposition. But unless we have 
first made clear to ourselves the facts which have been 
set forth under the name of habit, these words are more 
likely to be misleading than is the word habit. For the 
latter conveys explicitly the sense of operativeness, 
actuality. Attitude and, as ordinarily used, disposition 
suggest something latent, potential, something which 
requires a positive stimulus outside themselves to be- 
come active. If we perceive that they denote positive 
forms of action which are released merely through 
removal of some-counteracting "inhibitory" tendency. 
and then become overt, we may employ them instead of 
the word habit to denote subdued, non-patent forms of 
the latter. 

In this case, we must bear in mind that the word 
disposition means predisposition, readiness to act 
overtly in a specific fashion whenever opportunity is 
presented, this opportunity consisting in removal of 
the pressure due to the dominance of some overt habit ; 
and that attitude means some special case of a pre- 
disposition, the disposition waiting as it were to spring 
through an opened door. While it is admitted that the 
word habit has been used in a somewhat broader sense 
than is usual, we must protest against the tendency in 


psychological literature to limit its meaning to repe- 
tition. This usage is much less :'n accord with popular 
usage than is the wider way in \vhich we have used the 
word. It assumes from the start the identity of habit 
with routine. Repetition is in- no sense the essence of 
habit. Tendency to repeat acts is an incident of many 
habits but not of all. A man with the habit of giving 
way to anger may show his habit by a murderous attack 
upon some one who has offended. His act is nonethe- 
less due to habit because it occurs only once in his life. 
The essence of habit is an acquired predisposition to 
ways or modes of response, not to particular acts ex- 
cept as, under special conditions, these express a way 
of behaving. Habit means special sensitiveness or ac- 
cessibility to certain classes of stimuli, standing predi- 
lections and aversions, rather than bare recurrence of 
specific acts. It means will. 


The Dynamic force of habit taken in connection with 
the continuity of habits with one another explains the 
unity of character and conduct, or speaking more con- 
cretely of motive and act, will and deed. Moral the- 
ories have frequently separated these things from each 
other. One type of theory, for example, has asserted 
that only will, disposition, motive counts morally ; that 
acts are external, physical, accidental ; that moral good 
is different from goodness in act since the latter is meas- 
ured by consequences, while moral good or virtue is in- 
trinsic, complete in itself, a jewel shining by its own 
light a somewhat dangerous metaphor however. The 
other type of theory has asserted that such a view is 
equivalent to saying that all that is necessary to be 
virtuous is to cultivate states of feeling; that a pre- 
mium is put on disregard of the actual consequences 
of conduct, and agents are deprived of any objective 
criterion for the Tightness and wrongness of acts, being 
thrown back on their own whims, prejudices and private 
peculiarities. Like most opposite extremes in philo- 
sophic theories, the two theories suffer from a common 
mistake. Both of them ignore the projective force of 
habit and the implication of habits in one another. 
Hence they separate a unified deed into two disjoined 
parts, an inner called motive and an outer called act. 



The doctrine that the chief good of man is good will 
easily wins acceptance from honest men. For common- 
sense employs a juster psychology than either of the 
theories just mentioned. By will, common-sense under- 
stands something practical and moving. It under- 
stands the body of habits, of active dispositions which 
makes a man do what he does. Will is thus not some- 
thing opposed to consequences or severed from them. 
It is a cause of consequences ; it is causation in its per- 
sonal aspect, the aspect immediately preceding action. 
It hardly seems conceivable to practical sense that by 
will is meant something which can be complete without 
reference to deeds prompted and results occasioned. 
Even the sophisticated specialist cannot prevent re- 
lapses from such an absurdity back into common-sense. 
Kant, who went the limit in excluding consequences from 
moral value, was sane enough to maintain that a society 
of men of good will would be a society which in fact 
would maintain social peace, freedom and cooperation. 
We take the will for the deed not as a substitute for 
doing, or a form of doing nothing, but in the sense 
that, other things being equal, the right disposition 
will produce the right deed. For a disposition means 
a tendency to act, a potential energy needing only op- 
portunity to become kinetic and overt. Apart from 
such tendency a " virtuous " disposition is either hy- 
pocrisy or self-deceit. 

Common-sense in short never loses sight wholly of 
the two facts which limit and define a moral situation. 
One is that consequences fix the moral quality of an 


act. The other is thai upon the whole, or in the long 
run but not unqualifiedly, consequences are what they 
are because of the neture of desire and disposition. 
Hence there is a natural contempt for the morality of 
the " good " man who does not show his goodness in 
the results of his habitual acts. But there is also an 
aversion to attributing omnipotence to even the best 
of good dispositions, and hence an aversion to applying 
the criterion of consequences unreservedly. A holiness 
of character which is celebrated only on holy-days is 
unreal. A virtue of honesty, or chastity or benevo- 
lence which lives upon itself apart from definite results 
consumes itself and goes up in smoke. The separation 
of motive from motive-force in action accounts both 
for the morbidities and futilities of the professionally 
good, and for the more or less subconscious contempt 
for morality entertained by men of a strong executive 
habit with their preference for " getting things done." 
Yet there is justification for the common assump- 
tion that deeds cannot be judged properly without tak- 
ing their animating disposition as well as their concrete 
consequences into account. The reason, however, lies 
not in isolation of disposition from consequences, but 
in the need for viewing consequences broadly. This act 
is only one of a multitude of acts. If we confine our- 
selves to the consequences of this one act we shall come 
out with a poor reckoning. Disposition is habitual, 
persistent. It shows itself therefore in many acts and 
in many consequences. Only as we keep a running ac- 
count, can we judge disposition, disentangling its ten- 


dency from accidental accompaniments. When once 
we have got a fair idea of its teidency, we are able to 
place the particular consequences of a single act in a 
wider context of continuing consequences. Thus we 
protect ourselves from taking as trivial a habit which 
is serious, and from exaggerating into momentousness 
an act which, viewed in the light of aggregate conse- 
quences, is innocent. There is no need to abandon 
common-sense which tells us in judging acts first to 
inquire into disposition; but there is great need that the 
estimate of disposition be enlightened by a scientific 
psychology. Our legal procedure, for example, wob- 
bles between a too tender treatment of criminality and 
a viciously drastic treatment of it. The vacillation can 
be remedied only as we can analyze an act in the light 
of habits, and analyze habits in the light of education, 
environment and prior acts. The dawn of truly sci- 
entific criminal law will come when each individual case 
is approached with something corresponding to the 
complete clinical record which every competent physi- 
cian attempts to procure as a matter of course in deal- 
ing with his subjects. 

Consequences include effects upon character, upon 
confirming and weakening habits, as well as tangibly 
obvious results. To keep an eye open to these effects 
upon character may signify the most reasonable of 
precautions or one of the most nauseating of practices. 
It may mean concentration of attention upon personal 
rectitude in neglect of objective consequences, a prac- 
tice which creates a wholly unreal rectitude. But it 


may mean that the survey of objective consequences 
is duly extended in time. An act of gambling may be 
judged, for example, by its immediate overt effects, 
consumption of time, energy, disturbance of ordinary 
monetary considerations, etc. It may also be judged 
by its consequences upon character, setting up an en- 
during love of excitement, a persistent temper of spec- 
ulation, and a persistent disregard of sober, steady 
work. To take the latter efFt :ts into account is equiv- 
alent to taking a broad vie'/ of future consequences; 
for these dispositions affect future companionships, 
vocation and avocations, the whole tenor of domestic 
and public life. 

For similar reasons, while common-sense does not run 
into that sharp opposition of virtues or moral goods 
and natural goods which has played such a large part 
in professed moralities, it does not insist upon an exact 
identity of the two. Virtues are ends because they are 
such important means. To be honest, courageous, 
kindly is to be in the way of producing specific natural 
goods or satisfactory fulfilments. Error comes into 
theories when the moral goods are separated from their 
consequences and also when the attempt is made to 
secure an exhaustive and unerring identification of the 
two. There is a reason, valid as far as it goes, for 
distinguishing virtue as a moral good resident in char- 
acter alone, from objective consequences. As matter 
of fact, a desirable trait of character does not always 
produce desirable results while good things often hap- 
pen with no assistance from good will. Luck, accident, 


contingency, plays its part. The act of a good char- 
acter it; deflected in operation, while a monomaniacal 
egotism may employ a desire for glory and power to 
perform acts which satisfy crying social needs. Reflec- 
tion shows that we must supplement the conviction of 
the moral connection betweeen character or habit and 
consequences by two considerations. 

One is the fact that ve are inclined to take the no- 
tions of goodness in character and goodness in results 
in too fixed a way. Persi'itent disparity between virtu- 
ous disposition and actual ^outcome shows that we have 
misjudged either the nature of virtue or of success. 
Judgments of both motive and consequences are still, 
in the absence of methods of scientific analysis and con- 
tinuous registration and reporting, rudimentary and 
conventional. We are inclined to wholesale judgments 
of character, dividing men into goats and sheep, in- 
stead of recognizing that all character is speckled, and 
that the problem of moral judgment is one of discrim- 
inating the complex of acts and habits into tendencies 
which are to be specifically cultivated and condemned. 
We need to study consequences more thoroughly and 
keep track of them more continuously before we shall 
be in a position where we can pass with reasonable as- 
surance upon the good and evil in either disposition 
or results. But even when proper allowances are made, 
we are forcing the pace when we assume that there is or 
ever can be an exact equation of disposition and out- 
come. We have to admit the role of accident. 

We cannot get beyond tendencies, and must perforce 


content ourselves with judgments of tendency. The 
honest man, we are told, acts upon " principle " and 
not from considerations of expediency, that is, of par- 
ticular consequences. The truth in this saying is that 
it is not safe to judge the worth of a proposed act 
by its probable consequences in an isolated case. The 
word " principle " is a eulogistic cover for the fact of 
tendency. The word " tend^^y " i *i aftpmyt f to 
combine two facts, one tfoat. habits hayp ^ pprfaiy] causal 
efficacy, theoFKer that their outworking in any partic- 
ular case is subject to Contingencies, to_gircumstancaa 
which are unforeseeable and which carry an act one 
side of its usual effect. In cases of doubt, there is no 
recourse save to stick to " tendency," that is, to the 
probable effect of a habit in the long run, or as we say 
upon the whole. Otherwise we are on the lookout for 
exceptions which favor our immediate desire. The 
trouble is that we are not content with modest proba- 
bilities. So when we find that a good disposition may 
work out badly, we say, as Kant did, that the working- 
out, the consequence, has nothing to do with the moral 
quality of an act, or we strain for the impossible, and 
aim at some infallible calculus of consequences by which 
to measure moral worth in each specific case. 

Human conceit has played a great part. It has 
demanded that the whole universe be judged from the 
standpoint of desire and disposition, or at least from 
that of the desire and disposition of the good man. The 
effect of religion has been to cherish this conceit by 
making- men think that the universe invariably conspires 


to support the good and bring the evil to naught. By a 
subtle logic, the effect has been to render morals unreal 
and transcendental. For since the world of actual ex- 
perience does not guarantee this identity of character 
and outcome, it is inferred that there must be some 
ulterior truer reality which enforces an equation that 
is violated in this life. Hence the common notion of an- 
other world in which vice and virtue of character pro- 
duce their exact moral meed. The idea is equally found 
as an actuating force in Plato. Moral realities must be 
supreme. Yet they are flagrantly contradicted in a 
world where a Socrates drinks the hemlock of the crim- 
inal, and where the vicious occupy the seats of the 
mighty. Hence there must be a truer ultimate reality 
in which justice is only and absolutely justice. Some- 
thing of the same idea lurks behind every aspiration 
for realization of abstract justice or equality or lib- 
erty. It is the source of all " idealistic " utopias and 
also of all wholesale pessimism and distrust of life. 
Utilitarianism illustrates another way of mistreating 
the situation. Tendency is not good enough for the 
utilitarians. They want a mathematical equation of 
act and consequence. Hence they make light of the 
steady and controllable factor, the factor of disposi- 
tion, and fasten upon just the things which are most 
subject to incalculable accident pleasures and pains 
and embark upon the hopeless enterprise of judging an 
act apart from character on the basis of definite results. 
An honestly modest theory will stick to the probabil- 
ities of tendency, and not import mathematics into 


morals. It will be alive and sensitive to consequences 
as they actually present themselves, because it knows 
that they give the only instruction we can procure as 
to the meaning of habits and dispositions. But it will 
never assume that a moral judgment which reaches cer- 
tainty is possible. We have just to do the best we can 
with habits, the forces most under our control; and 
we shall have our hands more than full in spelling out 
their general tendencies without attempting an exact 
judgment upon each deed. For every habit incorpo- 
rates within itself some part of the objective environ- 
ment, and no habit and no amount of habits can in- 
corporate the entire environment within itself or them- 
selves. There will always be disparity between them 
and the results actually attained. Hence the work of 
intelligence in observing consequences and in revising 
and readjusting habits, even the best of good habits, 
can never be foregone. Consequences reveal unexpected 
potentialities in our habits whenever these habits are 
exercised in a different environment from that in which 
they were formed. The assumption of a stably uniform 
environment (even the hankering for one) expresses a 
fiction due to attachment to old habits. The utilitarian 
theory of equation of acts with consequences is as much 
a fiction of self-conceit as is the assumption of a fixed 
transcendental world wherein moral ideals are eternally 
and immutably real. Both of them deny in effect the 
relevancy of time, of change, to morals, while time is 
of the essence of the moral struggle. 

We thus come, by an unexpected path, upon the old 


question of the objectivity or subjectivity of morals. 
Primarily they are objective. For will, as we have 
seen, means, in the concrete, habits; and habits incor- 
porate an environment within themselves. They are 
adjustments of the environment, not merely to it. At 
the same time, the environment is many, not one ; hence 
will, disposition, is plural. Diversity does not of itself 
imply conflict, but it implies the possibility of conflict, 
and this possibility is realized in fact. Life, for ex- 
ample, involves the habit of eating, which in turn in- 
volves a unification of organism and nature. But never- 
theless this habit comes into conflict with other habits 
which are also " objective," or in equilibrium with their 
environments. Because the environment is not all of 
one piece, man's house is divided within itself, against 
itself. Honor or consideration for others or courtesy 
conflict with hunger. Then the notion of the complete 
objectivity of morals gets a shock. Those who wish 
to maintain the idea unimpaired take the road which 
leads to transcendentalism. The empirical world, they 
say, is indeed divided, and hence any natural morality 
must be in conflict with itself. This self-contradiction 
however only points to a higher fixed reality with which 
a true and superior morality is alone concerned. Ob- 
jectivity is saved but at the expense of connection with 
human affairs. Our problem is to see what objectivity 
signifies upon a naturalistic basis; how morals are ob- 
jective and yet secular and social. Then we may be 
able to decide in what crisis of experience morals be- 


come legitimately dependent upon character or self 
that is, " subjective." 

Prior discussion points the way to the answer. A 
hungry man could not conceive food as a good unless 
he had actually experienced, with the support of en- 
vironing conditions, food as good. The objective sat- 
isfaction comes first. But he finds himself in a situ- 
ation where the good is denied in fact. It then lives in 
imagination. The habit denied overt expression asserts 
itself in idea. It sets up the thought, the ideal, of 
food. This thought is not what is sometimes called 
thought, a pale bloodless abstraction, but is charged 
with the motor urgent force of habit. Food as a good 
is now subjective, personal. But it has its source in 
objective conditions and it moves forward to new ob- 
jective conditions. For it works to secure a change of 
environment so that food will again be present in fact. 
Food is a " subjective " good during a temporary tran- 
sitional stage from one object to another. 

The analogy with morals lies upon the surface. A 
habit impeded in overt operation continues nonetheless 
to operate. It manifests itself in desireful thought, 
that is in an ideal or imagined object which embodies 
within itself the force of a frustrated habit. There is 
therefore demand for a changed environment, a demand 
which can be achieved only by some modification and 
rearrangement of old habits. Even Plato preserves an 
intimation of the natural function of ideal objects when 
he insists upon their value as patterns for use in re- 


organization of the actual scene. The pity is that he 
could not see that patterns exist only within and for 
the sake of reorganization, so that they, rather than 
empirical or natural objects, are the instrumental af- 
fairs. Not seeing this, he converted a function of 
reorganization into a metaphysical reality. If we essay 
a technical formulation we shall say that morality be- 
comes legitimately subjective or personal when activ- 
ities which once included objective factors in their oper- 
ation temporarily lose support from objects, and yet 
strive to change existing conditions until they regain 
a support which has been lost. It is all of a kind 
with the doings of a man, who remembering a prior 
satisfaction of thirst and the conditions under which 
it occurred, digs a well. For the time being water in 
reference to his activity exists in imagination not in 
fact. But this imagination is not a self-generated, self- 
enclosed, psychical existence. It is the persistent op- 
eration of a prior object which has been incorporated 
in effective habit. There is no miracle in the fact that 
an object in a new context operates in a new way. 

Of transcendental morals, it may at least be said 
that they retain the intimation of the objective char- 
acter of purposes and goods. Purely subjective morals 
arise when the incidents of the temporary (though re- 
current) crisis of reorganization are taken as complete 
and final in themselves. A self having habits and atti- 
tudes formed with the cooperation of objects runs 
ahead of immediately surrounding objects to effect a 
new equilibration. Subjective morals substitutes a self 


always set over against objects and generating its. 
ideals independently of objects, and in permanent, not 
transitory, opposition to them. Achievement, any 
achievement, is to it a negligible second best, a cheap 
and poor substitute for ideals that live only in the 
mind, a compromise with actuality made from physical 
necessity not from moral reasons. In truth, there i 
but a temporal episode. For a time, a self, a person, 
carries in his own habits against the forces of the im- 
mediate environment, a good which the existing en- 
,vironment denies. For this self moving temporarily, in 
isolation from objective conditions, between a good, a 
completeness, that has been and one that it is hoped 
to restore in some new form, subjective theories have 
substituted an erring soul wandering hopelessly between 
a Paradise Lost in the dim past and a Paradise to be 
Regained in a dim future. In reality, even when a 
person is in some respects at odds with his environment 
and so has to act for the time being as the sole agent 
of a good, he in many respects is still supported by 
objective conditions and is in possession of undisturbed 
goods and virtues. Men do die from thirst at times, 
but upon the whole in their search for water they are 
sustained by other fulfilled powers. But subjective 
morals taken wholesale sets up a solitary self without 
objective ties and sustenance. In fact, there exists a 
shifting mixture of vice and virtue. Theories paint a 
world with a God in heaven and a Devil in hell. Mor- 
alists in short have failed to recall that a severance of 
moral desire and purpose from immediate actualities 


is an inevitable phase of activity when habits persist 
while the world which they have incorporated alters. 
Back of this failure lies the failure to recognize that 
in a changing world, old habits must perforce need modi- 
fication, no matter how good they have been. 

Obviously any such change can be only experimen- 
tal. The lost objective good persists in habit, but it 
can recur in objective form only through some con- 
dition of affairs which has not been yet experienced, 
and which therefore can be anticipated only uncertainly 
and inexactly. The essential point is that anticipation 
should at least guide as well as stimulate effort, that it 
should be a working hypothesis corrected and developed 
by events as action proceeds. There was a time when 
men believed that each object in the external world 
carried its nature stamped upon it as a form, and that 
intelligence consisted in simply inspecting and reading 
off an intrinsic self-enclosed complete nature. The sci- 
entific revolution which began in the seventeenth cen- 
tury came through a surrender of this point of 
view. It began with recognition that every natural 
object is in truth an event continuous in space and time 
with other events ; and is to be known only by experi- 
mental inquiries which will exhibit a multitude of com- 
plicated, obscure and minute relationships. Any ob- 
served form or object is but a challenge. The case is 
not otherwise with ideals of justice or peace or human 
brotherhood, or equality, or order. They too are not 
things self-enclosed to be known by introspection, as 
objects were once supposed to be known bj rational in- 


sight. Like thunderbolts and tubercular disease and 
the rainbow they can be known only by extensive and 
minute observation of consequences incurred in action. 
A false psychology of an isolated self and a subjective 
morality shuts out from morals the things important 
to it, acts and habits in their objective consequences. 
At the same time it misses the point characteristic of 
the personal subjective aspect of morality: the signifi- 
cance of desire and thought in breaking down old 
rigidities of habit and preparing the way for acts that 
re-create an environment. 


We often fancy that institutions, social custom, col- 
lective habit, have been formed by the consolidation of 
individual habits. In the main this supposition is false 
to fact. To a considerable extent customs, or wide- 
spread uniformities of habit, exist because individuals 
face the same situation and react in like fashion. But 
to a larger extent customs persist because individuals 
form their personal habits under conditions set by prior 
customs. An individual usually acquires the morality 
as he inherits the speech of his social group. The 
activities of the group are already there, and some 
assimilation of his own acts to their pattern is a pre- 
requisite of a share therein, and hence of having any 
part in what is going on. Each person is born an 
infant, and every infant is subject from the first breath 
he draws and the first cry he utters to the attentions 
and demands of others. These others are not just 
persons in general with minds in general. They are 
beings with habits, and beings who upon the whole 
esteem the habits they have, if for no other reason than 
that, having them, their imagination is thereby lim- 
ited. The nature of habit is to be assertive, insistent, 
self-perpetuating. There is no miracle in the fact that 
if a child learns any language he learns the language 
that those about him speak and teach, especially since 
his ability to speak that language is a pre-condition of 



his entering into effective connection with them, making 
wants known and getting them satisfied. Fond parents 
and relatives frequently pick up a few of the child's 
spontaneous modes of speech and for a time at least 
they are portions of the speech of the group. But the 
ratio which such words bear to the total vocabulary 
in use gives a fair measure of the part played by purely 
individual habit in forming custom in comparison with 
the part played by custom in forming individual habits. 
Few persons have either the energy or the wealth to 
build private roads to travel upon. They find it con- 
venient, " natural," to use the roads that are already 
there; while unless their private roads connect at some 
point with the high-way they cannot build them even 
if they would. 

These simple facts seem to me to give a simple ex- 
planation of matters that are often surrounded with 
mystery. To talk about the priority of " society " to 
the individual is to indulge in nonsensical metaphysics. 
But to say that some pre-existent association of human 
beings is prior to every particular human being who is 
born into the world is to mention a commonplace. 
These associations are definite modes of interaction of 
persons with one another; that is to say they form 
customs, institutions. There is no problem in all his- 
tory so artificial as that of how " individuals " manage 
to form " society." The problem is due to the pleasure 
taken in manipulating concepts, and discussion goes 
on because concepts are kept from inconvenient con- 
tact with facts. The facts of infancy and sex have 


only to be called to mind to see how manufactured are 
the conceptions which enter into this particular 

The problem, however, of how those established 
and more or less deeply grooved systems of interaction 
which we call social groups, big and small, modify the 
activities of individuals who perforce are caught-up 
within them, and how the activities of component indi- 
viduals remake and redirect previously established cus- 
toms is a deeply significant one. Viewed from the stand- 
point of custom and its priority to the formation of 
habits in human beings who are born babies and grad- 
ually grow to maturity, the facts which are now usually 
assembled under the conceptions of collective minds, 
group-minds, national-minds, crowd-minds, etc., etc., 
Jose the mysterious air they exhale when mind is 
thought of (as orthodox psychology teaches us to think 
of it) as something which precedes action. It is dif- 
ficult to see that collective mind means anything more 
than a custom brought at some point to explicit, em- 
phatic consciousness, emotional or intellectual.* 

* Mob psychology comes under the same principles, but in a 
negative aspect. The crowd and mob express a disintegration of 
habits which releases impulse and renders persons susceptible 
to immediate stimuli, rather than such a functioning of habits 
as is found in the mind of a club or school of thought or a 
political party. Leaders of an organization, that is of an inter- 
action having settled habits, may, however, in order to put over 
some schemes deliberately resort to stimuli which will break 
through the crust of ordinary custom and release impulses on 
such a scale as to create a mob psychology. Since fear is a 
normal reaction to the unfamiliar, dread and suspicion are the 
forces most played upon to accomplish this result, together with 
vast vague contrary hopes. This is an ordinary technique in 
excited political campaigns, in starting war, etc. But an assimi- 


The family into which one is born is a family in a 
village or city which interacts with other more or less 
integrated systems of activity, and which includes a 
diversity of groupings within itself, say, churches, po- 
litical parties, clubs, cliques, partnerships, trade- 
unions, corporations, etc. If we start with the tradi- 
tional notion of mind as something complete in itself, 
then we may well be perplexed by the problem of how 
a common mind, common ways of feeling and believing 
and purposing, comes into existence and then forms 
these groups. The case is quite otherwise if we 
recognize that in any case we must start with grouped 
action, that is, with some fairly settled system of inter- 
action among individuals. The problem of origin and 
development of the various groupings, or definite cus- 
toms, in existence at any particular time in any par- 
ticular place is not solved by reference to psychic 
causes, elements, forces. It is to be solved by reference 
to facts of action, demand for food, for houses, for a 

lation like that of Le Bon of the psychology of democracy to the 
psychology of a crowd in overriding individual judgment shows 
lack of psychological insight. A political democracy exhibits 
an overriding of thought like that seen in any convention or in- 
stitution. That is, thought is submerged in habit. In the crowd 
and mob, it is submerged in undefined emotion. China and Japan 
exhibit crowd psychology more frequently than do western demo- 
cratic countries. Not in my judgment because of any essentially 
Oriental psychology but because of a nearer background of rigid 
and solid customs conjoined with the phenomena of a period of 
transition. The introduction of many novel stimuli creates occa- 
sions where habits afford no ballast. Hence great waves of emo- 
tion easily sweep through masses. Sometimes they are waves of 
enthusiasm for the new; sometimes of violent reaction against 
it both equally undiscriminating. The war has left behind it 
a somewhat similar situation in western countries. 


mate, for some one to talk to and to listen to one talk, 
for control of others, demands which are all intensified 
by the fact already mentioned that each person begins 
a helpless, dependent creature. I do not mean of course 
that hunger, fear, sexual love, gregariousness, sym- 
pathy, parental love, love of bossing and of being or- 
dered about, imitation, etc., play no part. But I do 
mean that these words do not express elements or forces 
which are psychic or mental in their first intention. 
They denote ways of behavior. These ways of behaving 
involve interaction, that is to say, and prior groupings. 
And to understand the existence of organized ways or 
habits we surely need to go to physics, chemistry and 
physiology rather than to psychology. 

There is doubtless a great mystery as to why any 
such thing as being conscious should exist at all. But 
if consciousness exists at all, there is no mystery in its 
being connected with what it is connected with. That 
is to say, if an activity which is an interaction of vari- 
ous factors, or a grouped activity, comes to conscious- 
ness it seems natural that it should take the form of 
an emotion, belief or purpose that reflects the inter- 
action, that it should be an " our " consciousness or a 
" my " consciousness. And by this is meant both that 
it will be shared by those who are implicated in the 
associative custom, or more or less alike ir them all, 
and that it will be felt or thought to concern others as 
well as one's self. A family-custom or organized habit 
of action comes into contact and conflict for example 
with that of some other family. The emotions cf ruf- 


fled pride, the belief about superiority or being " as 
good as other people," the intention to hold one's own 
are naturally our feeling and idea of our treatment and 
position. Substitute the Republican party or the 
American nation for the family and the general situ- 
ation remains the same. The conditions which de- 
termine the nature and extent of the particular group- 
ing in question are matters of supreme import. But 
they are not as such subject-matter of psychology, but 
of the history of politics, law, religion, economics, in- 
vention, the technology of communication and inter- 
course. Psychology comes in as an indispensable tool. 
But it enters into the matter of understanding these 
various special topics, not into the question of what 
psychic forces form a collective mind and therefore a 
social group. That way of stating the case puts the 
cart a long way before the horse, and naturally gathers 
obscurities and mysteries to itself. In short, the pri- 
mary facts of social psychology center about collective 
habit, custom. In addition to the general psychology 
of habit which is general not individual in any intel- 
ligible sense of that word we need to find out just 
how different customs shape the desires, beliefs, pur- 
poses of those who are affected by them. The problem 
of social psychology is not how either individual or 
collective mind forms social groups and customs, but 
how different customs, established interacting arrange- 
ments, form and nurture different minds. From this 
general statement we return to our special problem, 
which is how the rigid character of past custom has 


unfavorably influenced beliefs, emotions and purposes 
having to do with morals. 

We come back to the fact that individuals begin their 
career as infants. For the plasticity of the young pre- 
sents a temptation to those having greater experience 
and hence greater power which they rarely resist. It 
seems putty to be molded according to current designs. 
That plasticity also means power to change prevailing 
custom is ignored. Docility is looked upon not as abil- 
ity to learn whatever the world has to teach, but as 
subjection to those instructions of others which reflect 
their current habits. To be truly docile is to be eager 
to learn all the lessons of active, inquiring, expanding 
experience. The inert, stupid quality of current cus- 
toms perverts learning into a willingness to follow 
where others point the way, into conformity, constric- 
tion, surrender of scepticism and experiment. When 
we think of the docility of the young we first think of 
the stocks of information adults wish to impose and 
the ways of acting they want to reproduce. Then we 
think of the insolent coercions, the insinuating briberies, 
the pedagogic solemnities by which the freshness of 
youth can be faded and its vivid curiosities dulled. 
Education becomes the art of taking advantage of the 
helplessness of the young; the forming of habits be- 
comes a guarantee for the maintenance of hedges of 

Of course it is not wholly forgotten that habits are 
abilities, arts. Any striking exhibition of acquired 
skill in physical matters, like that of an acrobat or 


billiard-player, arouses universal admiration. But we 
like to have innovating power limited to technical mat- 
ters and reserve our admiration for those manifestations 
that display virtuosity rather than virtue. In moral 
matters it is assumed that it is enough if some ideal has 
been exemplified in the life of a leader, so that it is now 
the part of others to follow and reproduce. For every 
branch of conduct, there is a Jesus or Buddha, a Na- 
poleon or Marx, a Froebel or Tolstoi, whose pattern 
of action, exceeding our own grasp, is reduced to a 
practicable copy-size by passage through rows and 
rows of lesser leaders. 

The notion that it suffices if the idea, the end, is 
present in the mind of some authority dominates formal 
schooling. It permeates the unconscious education de- 
rived from ordinary contact and intercourse. Where 
following is taken to be normal, moral originality is 
pretty sure to be eccentric. But if independence were 
the rule, originality would be subjected to severe, ex- 
perimental tests and be saved from cranky eccentricity, 
as it now is in say higher mathematics. The regime 
of custom assumes that the outcome is the same whether 
an individual understands what he is about or whether 
he goes through certain motions while mouthing the 
words of others repetition of formulas being esteemed 
of greater importance, upon the whole, than repetition 
of deeds. To say what the sect or clique or class says 
is the way of proving that one also understands and 
approves what the clique clings to. In theory, democ- 
racy should be a means of stimulating original thought, 


and of evoking action deliberately adjusted in advance 
to cope with new forces. In fact it is still so immature 
that its main effect is to multiply occasions for imita- 
tion. If progress in spite of this fact is more rapid 
than in other social forms, it is by accident, since the 
diversity of models conflict with one another and 
thus give individuality a chance in the resulting chaos 
of opinions. Current democracy acclaims success more 
boisterously than do other social forms, and surrounds 
failure with a more reverberating train of echoes. But 
the prestige thus given excellence is largely adventi- 
tious. The achievement of thought attracts others not 
so much intrinsically as because of an eminence due to 
multitudinous advertising and a swarm of imitators. 

Even liberal thinkers have treated habit as essen- 
tially, not because of the character of existing customs, 
conservative. In fact only in a society dominated by 
modes of belief and admiration fixed by past custom is 
habit any more conservative than it is progressive. It 
all depends upon its quality. Habit is an ability, an 
art, formed through past experience. But whether an 
ability is limited to repetition of past acts adopted to 
past conditions or is available for new emergencies 
depends wholly upon what kind of habit exists. The 
tendency to think that only " bad " habits are dis- 
serviceable and that bad habits are conventionally 
numerable, conduces to make all habits more or less 
bad. For what makes a habit bad is enslavement to 
old ruts. The common notion that enslavement to good 
ends converts mechanical routine into good is a 


negation of the principle of moral goodness. It iden- 
tifies morality with what was sometime rational, pos- 
sibly in some prior experience of one's own, but more 
probably in the experience of some one else who is now 
blindly set up as a final authority. The genuine heart 
of reasonableness (and of goodness in conduct) lies 
in effective mastery of the conditions which now enter 
into action. To be satisfied with repeating, with trav- 
ersing the ruts which in other conditions led to good, 
is the surest way of creating carelessness about present 
and actual good. 

Consider what happens to thought when habit is 
merely power to repeat acts without thought. Where 
does thought exist and operate when it is excluded from 
habitual activities? Is not such thought of necessity 
shut out from effective power, from ability to control 
objects and command events? Habits deprived of 
thought and thought which is futile are two sides of the 
same fact. To laud habit as conservative while prais- 
ing thought as the main spring of progress is to take 
the surest course to making thought abstruse and 
irrelevant and progress a matter of accident and catas- 
trophe. The concrete fact behind the current separa- 
tion of body and mind, practice and theory, actualities 
and ideals, is precisely this separation of habit and 
thought. Thought which does not exist within ordinary 
jhifl.frit.s of ftction lacks means of execution. In lacking 
application, it also lacks test, criterion. Hence it is 
condemned to a separate realm. If we try to act upon 
it, our actions are clumsy, forced. In fact, contrary 


habits (as we have already seen) come into operation 
and betray our purpose. After a few such experiences, 
it is subconsciously decided that thought is too precious 
and high to be exposed to the contingencies of action. 
It is reserved for separate uses; thought feeds only 
thought not action. Ideals must not run the risk of 
contamination and perversion by contact with actual 
conditions. Thought then either resorts to specialized 
and technical matters influencing action in the library 
or laboratory alone, or else it becomes sentimentalized. 
Meantime there are certain " practical " men who 
combine thought and habit and who are effectual. Their 
thought is about their own advantage ; and their habits 
correspond. They dominate the actual situation. They 
encourage routine in others, and they also subsidize 
such thought and learning as are kept remote from 
affairs. This they call sustaining the standard of the 
ideal. Subjection they praise as team-spirit, loyalty, 
devotion, obedience, industry, law-and-order. But they 
temper respect for law by which they mean the order 
of the existing status on the part of others with most 
skilful and thoughtful manipulation of it in behalf of 
their own ends. While they denounce as subversive 
anarchy signs of independent thought, of thinking for 
themselves, on the part of others lest such thought 
disturb the conditions by which they profit, they think 
quite literally for themselves, that is, of themselves. 
This is the eternal game of the practical men. Hence 
it is only by accident that the separate and endowed 


* thought " of professional thinkers leaks out into ac- 
tion and affects custom. 

For thinking cannot itself escape the influence of 
habit, any more than anything else human. If it is not 
a part of ordinary habits, then it is a separate habit, 
habit alongside other habits, apart from them, as 
isolated and indurated as human structure permits. 
Theory is a possession of the theorist, intellect of the 
intellectualist. The so-called separation of theory and 
practice means in fact the separation of two kinds of 
practice, one taking place in the outdoor world, the 
other in the study. The habit of thought commands 
some materials (as every habit must do) but the ma- 
terials are technical, books, words. Ideas are objecti- 
fied in action but speech and writing monopolize their 
field of action. Even then subconscious pains are 
taken to see that the words used are not too widely 
understood. Intellectual habits like other habits de- 
mand an environment, but the environment is the study, 
library, laboratory and academy. Like other habits 
they produce external results, possessions. Some men 
acquire ideas and knowledge as other men acquire mon- 
etary wealth. While practising thought for their own 
special ends they deprecate it for the untrained and 
unstable masses for whom " habits," that is unthinking 
routines, are necessities. They favor popular educa- 
tion up to the point of disseminating as matter of 
authoritative information for the many what the few 
have established by thought, and up to the point of 


converting an original docility to the new into a docility 
to repeat and to conform. 

Yet all habit involves mechanization. Habit is im- 
possible without setting up a mechanism of action, 
physiologically engrained, which operates " spontane- 
ously," automatically, whenever the cue is given. But 
mechanization is not of necessity all there is to habit. 
Consider the conditions under which the first serviceable 
abilities of life are formed. When a child begins to 
walk he acutely observes, he intently and intensely ex- 
periments. He looks to see what is going to happen 
and he keeps curious watch on every incident. What 
others do, the assistance they give, the models they set, 
operate not as limitations but as encouragements to his 
own acts, reinforcements of personal perception and 
endeavor. The first toddling is a romantic adventur- 
ing into the unknown; and every gained power is a 
delightful discovery of one's own powers and of the 
wonders of the world. We may not be able to retain 
in adult habits this zest of intelligence and this 
freshness of satisfaction in newly discovered powers. 
But there is surely a middle term between a normal 
exercise of power which includes some excursion into 
the unknown, and a mechanical activity hedged within 
a drab world. Even in dealing with inanimate machines 
we rank that invention higher which adapts its move- 
ments to varying conditions. 

All life operates through a mechanism, and the 
higher the form of life the more complex, sure and 
flexible the mechanism. This fact alone should save 


us from opposing life and mechanism, thereby reducing 
the latter to unintelligent automatism and the former 
to an aimless splurge. How delicate, prompt, sure and 
varied are the movements of a violin player or an en- 
graver! How unerringly they phrase every shade of 
emotion and every turn of idea! Mechanism is indis- 
pensable. If each act has to be consciously searched 
for at the moment and intentionally performed, exe- 
cution is painful and the product is clumsy and halting. 
Nevertheless the difference between the artist and the 
mere technician is unmistakeable. The artist is a mas- 
terful technician. The technique or mechanism is fused 
with thought and feeling. The " mechanical " per- 
former permits the mechanism to dictate the perform- 
ance. It is absurd to say that the latter exhibits habit 
and the former not. We are confronted with two kinds 
of habit, intelligent and routine. All life has its elan, 
but only the prevalence of dead habits deflects life into 
mere elan. 

Yet the current dualism of mind and body, thought 
and action, is so rooted that we are taught ( and science 
is said to support the teaching) that the art, the habit, 
of the artist is acquired by previous mechanical exer- 
cises of repetition in which skill apart from thought is 
the aim, until suddenly, magically, this soulless mechan- 
ism is taken possession of by sentiment and imagination 
and it becomes a flexible instrument of mind. The fact, 
the scientific fact, is that even in his exercises, his prac- 
tice for skill, an artist uses an art he already has. He 
acquires greater skill because practice of skill is more 


important to him than practice for skill. Otherwise 
natural endowment would count for nothing, and 
sufficient mechanical exercise would make any one 
an expert in any field. A flexible, sensitive habit grows 
more varied, more adaptable by practice and use. We 
do not as yet fully understand the physiological fac- 
tors concerned in mechanical routine on one hand and 
artistic skill on the other, but we do know that the 
latter is just as much habit as is the former. 
Whether it concerns the cook, musician, carpenter, cit- 
izen, or statesman, the intelligent or artistic habit is 
the desirable thing, and the routine the undesirable 
thing: or, at least, desirable and undesirable from 
every point of view except one. 

Those who wish a monopoly of social power find 
desirable the separation of habit and thought, action 
and soul, so characteristic of history. For the dualism 
enables them to do the thinking and planning, while 
others remain the docile, even if awkward, instruments 
of execution. Until this scheme is changed, democracy 
is bound to be perverted in realization. With our 
present system of education by which something much 
more extensive than schooling is meant democracy 
multiplies occasions for imitation not occasions for 
thought in action. If the visible result is rather a 
messy confusion than an ordered discipline of habits, it 
is because there are so many models of imitation set up 
tliat they tend to cancel one another, so that individ- 
uals have the advantage neither of uniform training 
nor of intelligent adaptation. Whence an intellectu- 


alist, the one with whom thinking is itself a segregated 
habit, infers that the choice is between muss-and- 
muddling and a bureaucracy. He prefers the latter, 
though under some other name, usually an aristocracy 
of talent and intellect, possibly a dictatorship of the 

It has been repeatedly stated that the current philo- 
sophical dualism of mind and body, of spirit and mere 
outward doing, is ultimately but an intellectual reflex 
of the social divorce of routine habit from thought, of 
means from ends, practice from theory. One hardly 
knows whether most to admire the acumen with which 
Bergson has penetrated through the accumulation of 
historic technicalities to this essential fact, or to de- 
plore the artistic skill with which he has recommended 
the division and the metaphysical subtlety with which 
he has striven to establish its necessary and unchange- 
able nature. For the latter tends to confirm and sanc- 
tion the dualism in all its obnoxiousness. In the end, 
however, detection, discovery, is the main thing. To 
envisage the relation of spirit, life, to matter, body, 
as in effect an affair of a force which outruns habit 
while it leaves a trail of routine habits behind it, will 
surely turn out in the end to imply the acknowledg- 
ment of the need of a continuous unification of spirit 
and habit, rather than to be a sanction of their di- 
vorce. And when Bergson carries the implicit logic 
to the point of a clear recognition that upon this basis 
concrete intelligence is concerned with the habits 
which incorporate and deal with objects, and that noth- 


ing remains to spirit, pure thought, except a blind on- 
ward push or impetus, the net conclusion is surely the 
need of revision of the fundamental premiss of sepa- 
ration of soul and habit. A blind creative force is as 
likely to turn out to be destructive as creative ; the vital 
elan may delight in war rather than in the laborious 
arts of civilization, and a mystic intuition of an ungoing 
splurge be a poor substitute for the detailed work of an 
intelligence embodied in custom and institution, one 
which creates by means of flexible continuous contriv- 
ances of reorganization. For the eulogistic qualities 
which Bergson attributes to the elan vital flow not from 
its nature but from a reminiscence of the optimism of 
romanticism, an optimism which is only the reverse side 
of pessimism about actualities. A spiritual life which 
is nothing but a blind urge separated from thought 
(which is said to be confined to mechanical ma- 
nipulation of material objects for personal uses) is 
likely to have the attributes of the Devil in spite of its 
being ennobled with the name of God. 

For practical purposes morals mean customs, folk- 
ways, established collective habits. This is a common- 
place of the anthropologist, though the moral theorist 
generally suffers from an illusion that his own place 
and day is, or ought to be, an exception. But always 
and everywhere customs supply the standards for per- 
sonal activities. They are the pattern into which in- 
dividual activity must weave itself. This is as true 
today as it ever was. But because of present mobility 
and interminglings of customs, an individual is now 
offered an enormous range of custom-patterns, and can 
exercise personal ingenuity in selecting and rearranging 
their elements. In short he can, if he will, intelligently 
adapt customs to conditions, and thereby remake them. 
Customs in any case constitute moral standards. For 
they are active demands for certain ways of acting. 
Every habit creates an unconscious expectation. It 
forms a certain outlook. What psychologists have la- 
boriously treated under the caption of association of 
ideas has little to do with ideas and everything to do 
with the influence of habit upon recollection and per- 
ception. A habit, a routine habit, when interfered with 
generates uneasiness, sets up a protest in favor of 
restoration and a sense of need of some expiatory act> 
or else it goes off in casual reminiscence. It is the 



essence of routine to insist upon its own continuation. 
Breach of it is violation of right. Deviation from it 
is transgression. 

All that metaphysics has said about the nisus of 
Being to conserve its essence and all that a mytho- 
logical psychology has said about a special instinct of 
self-preservation is a cover for the persistent self- 
assertion of habit. Habit is energy organized in cer- 
tain channels. When interfered with, it swells as re- 
sentment and as an avenging force. To say that it 
will be obeyed, that custom makes law, that nomos is 
lord of all, is after all only to say that habit is habit. 
Emotion is a perturbation from clash or failure of 
habit, and reflection, roughly speaking, is the painful 
effort of disturbed habits to readjust themselves. It 
is a pity that Westermarck in his monumental collec- 
tion of facts which show the connection of custom with 
morals* is still so much under the influence of current 
subjective psychology that he misstates the point of 
his data. For although he recognizes the objectivity 
of custom, he treats sympathetic resentment and ap- 
probation as distinctive inner feelings or conscious 
states which give rise to acts. In his anxiety to dis- 
place an unreal rational source of morals he sets up an 
equally unreal emotional basis. In truth, feelings as 
well as reason spring up within action. Breach of cus- 
tom or habit is the source of sympathetic resentment, 
while overt approbation goes out to fidelity to custom 
maintained under exceptional circumstances. 

* " The Origin and Development of Moral Ideas." 


Those who recognize the place of custom in lower 
social forms generally regard its presence in civilized 
society as a mere survival. Or, like Sumner, they fancy 
that to recognize its abiding place is equivalent to the 
denial of all rationality and principle to morality; 
equivalent to the assertion of blind, arbitrary forces 
in life. In effect, this point of view has already 
been dealt with. It overlooks the fact that the real 
opposition is not between reason and habit but between 
routine, unintelligent habit, and intelligent habit or 
art. Even a savage custom may be reasonable in that 
it is adapted to social needs and uses. Experience may 
add to^ such adaptation a conscious recognition of ii^ 
and then the custom of^rationalityis added to a prior 

External reasonableness or adaptation to ends pre- 
cedes reasonableness of mind. This is only to say that 
in morals as well as in physics things have to be there 
before we perceive them, and that rationality of mind 
is not an original endowment but is the offspring of 
intercourse with objective adaptations and relations 
a view which under the influence of a conception of 
knowing the like by the like has been distorted into 
Platonic and other objective idealisms. Reason as 
observation of an adaptation of acts to valuable re- 
sults is not however a mere idle mirroring of pre- 
existent facts. It is an additional event having its own 
career. It sets up a heightened emotional appreciation 
and provides a new motive for fidelities previously blind. 
It sets up an attitude of criticism, of inquiry, and 


makes men sensitive to the brutalities and extrava- 
gancies of customs. In short, it becomes a custom of 
expectation and outlook, an active demand for reason- 
ableness in other customs. The reflective disposition is 
not self-made nor a gift of the gods. It arises in some 
exceptional circumstance out of social customs, as we 
see in the case of the Greeks. But when it has been 
generated it establishes a new custom, which is capable 
of exercising the most revolutionary influence upon 
other customs. 

Hence the growing importance of personal ration- 
ality or intelligence, in moral theory if not in practice. 
That current customs contradict one another, that 
many of them are unjust, and that without criticism 
none of them is fit to ^ Q th^-figiide of life was the dis- 
covery with which the Athenian Socrates initiated con- 
scious moral theorizing. Yet a dilemma soon presented 
itself, one which forms the burden of Plato's ethical 
writings. How shall thought which is personal arrive 
at standards which hold good for all, which, in modern 
phrase, are objective? The solution found by Plato 
was that reason is itself objective, universal, cosmic 
and makes the individual soul its vehicle. The result, 
however, was merely to substitute a metaphysical or 
transcendental ethics for the ethics of custom. If Plato 
had been able to see that reflection and criticism express 
a conflict of customs, and that their purport and office 
is to re-organize, re-adjust customs, the subsequent 
course of moral theory would have been very different. 
Custom would have provided needed objective and sub- 


stantial ballast, and personal rationality or reflective 
intelligence been treated as the necessary organ of 
experimental initiative and creative invention in re- 
making custom. 

We have another difficulty to face: a greater wave 
rises to overwhelm us. It is said that to derive moral 
standards from social customs is to evacuate the latter 
of all authority. Morals, it is said, imply the subordi- 
nation of fact to ideal consideration, while the view pre- 
sented makes morals secondary to bare fact, which is 
equal to depriving them of dignity and jurisdiction. 
The objection has the force of the custom of moral 
theorists behind it; and therefore in its denial of cus- 
tom avails itself of the assistance of the notion it at- 
tacks. The criticism rests upon a false separation. 
It argues in effect that either ideal standards antecede 
customs and confer their moral quality upon them, or 
that in being subsequent to custom and evolved from 
them, they are mere accidental by-products. But how 
does the case stand with language? Men did not in- 
tend language; they did not have social objects con- 
sciously in view when they began to talk, nor did they 
have grammatical and phonetic principles before them 
by which to regulate their efforts at communication. 
These things come after the fact and because of it. 
Language grew out of unintelligent babblings^Jnstinc- 
tive motions called gestures, and the pressure of circum- 
stance. But nevertheless language once called into ex- 
istence is language and operates as language. It op- 
crates not to perpetuate the forces which produced 

- j i / 



but to modify and redirect them. It has such tran- 
scendent importance that pains are taken with its use. 
Literatures are produced, and then a vast apparatus 
of grammar, rhetoric, dictionaries, literary criticism, 
reviews, essays, a derived literature ad lib. Education, 
schooling, becomes a necessity; literacy an end. In 
short language when it is produced meets old needs and 
opens new possibilities. It creates demands which take 
effect, and the effect is not confined to speech ami lit- 
erature, but extends to the common life in communi- 
cation, counsel and instruction. 

What is said of the institution of language holds 
good of every institution. Family life, property, legal 
forms, churches and schools, academies of art and sci- 
ence did not originate to serve conscious ends nor was 
their generation regulated by consciousness of prin- 
ciples of reason and right. Yet each institution has 
brought with its development demands, expectations, 
rules, standards. These are not mere embellishments 
of the forces which produced them, idle decorations of 
the scene. They are additional forces. They recon- 
struct. They open new avenues of endeavor and impose 
new labors. In short they are civilization, culture, 

Still the question recurs : What authority have stand- 
ards and ideas which have originated in this way? 
What claim have they upon us? In one sense 
the question is unanswerable. In the same sense, 
however, the question is unanswerable whatever 
origin and sanction is ascribed to moral obligations 


and loyalties. Why attend to metaphysical and 
transcendental ideal realities even if we concede they 
are the authors of moral standards? Why do this act 
if I feel like doing something else? Any moral question 
may reduce itself to this question if we so choose. 
But in an empirical sense the answer is simple. The 
authority is that of life. Why employ language, cul- 
tivate literature, acquire and develop science, sustain 
industry, and submit to the refinements of art? To 
ask these questions is equivalent to asking: Why live? 
And the only answer is that if one is going to live one 
must live a life of which these things form the sub- 
stance. The only question having sense which can be 
asked is how we are going to use and be used by these 
things, not whether we are going to use them. Reason, 
moral principles, cannot in any case be shoved behind 
these affairs, for reason and morality grow out of them. 
But they have grown into them as well as out of them. 
They are there as part of them. No one can escape 
them if he wants to. He cannot escape the problem 
of how to engage in life, since in any case he must en- 
gage in it in some way or other or else quit and get 
out. In short, the choice is not between a moral author- 
ity outside custom and one within it. It is between 
adopting more or less intelligent and significant 

Curiously enough, the chief practical effect of re- 
fusing to recognize the connection of custom with moral 
standards is to deify some special custom and treat it 
as eternal, immutable, outside of criticism and revision. 


This consequence is especially harmful in times of rapid 
social flux. For it leads to disparity between nominal 
standards, which become ineffectual and hypocritical in 
exact ratio to their theoretical exaltation, and actual 
habits which have to take note of existing condi- 
tions. The disparity breeds disorder. Irregularity 
and confusion are however practically intolerable, and 
effect the generation of a new rule of some sort or 
other. Only such complete disturbance of the physical 
bases of life and security as comes from plague and 
starvation can throw society into utter disorder. No 
amount of intellectual transition can seriously disturb 
the main tenor of custom, or morals. Hence the 
greater danger which attends the attempt in period of 
social change to maintain the immutability of old 
standards is not general moral relaxation. It is rather 
social clash, an irreconciled conflict of moral standards 
and purposes, the most serious form of class warfare. 

For segregated classes develop their own customs, 
which is to say their own working morals. As long as 
society is mainly immobile these diverse principles and 
ruling aims do not clash. They exist side by side in 
different strata. Power, glory, honor, magnificence, 
mutual faith here; industry, obedience, abstinence, 
humility, and reverence there: noble and plebeian vir- 
tues. Vigor, courage, energy, enterprise here; sub- 
mission, patience, charm, personal fidelity there: the 
masculine and feminine virtues. But mobility invades 
society. War, commerce, travel, communication, con- 
tact with the thoughts and desires of other classes, new 


inventions in productive industry, disturb the settled 
distribution of customs. Congealed habits thaw out, 
and a flood mixes things once separated. 

Each class is rigidly sure of the Tightness of its own 
ends and hence not overscrupulous about the means of 
attaining them. One side proclaims the ultimacy of 
order that of some old order which conduces to its 
own interest. The other side proclaims its rights to 
freedom, and identifies justice with its submerged 
claims. .There is no common ground, no moral under- 
standing, no agreed upon standard of appeal. Today 
such a conflict occurs between propertied classes and 
those who depend upon daily wage; between men and 
women; between old and young. Each appeals to its 
own standard of right, and each thinks the other the 
creature of personal desire, whim or obstinacy. Mobil- 
ity has affected peoples as well. Nations and races 
;face one another, each with its own immutable stand- 
ards. Never before in history have there existed such 
[numerous contacts and minglings. Never before have 
there been such occasions for conflict which are the 
more significant because each side feels that it is sup- 
ported by moral principles. Customs relating to what 
has been and emotions referring to what may come to 
be go their independent ways. The demand of each side 
treats its opponent as a wilful violator of moral princi- 
ples, an expression of self-interest or superior might. 
Intelligence which is the only possible messenger of 
reconciliation dwells in a far land of abstractions or 
comes after the event to record accomplished facts. 


The prior discussion has tried to show why the psy- 
chology of habit is an objective and social psychology. 
Settled and regular action must contain an adjustment 
of environing conditions ; it must incorporate them in 
itself. For human beings, the environing affairs di- 
rectly important are those formed by the activities of 
other human beings. This fact is accentuated and 
made fundamental by the fact of infancy the fact 
that each human being begins life completely depend- 
ent upon others. The net outcome accordingly is that 
what can be called distinctively individual in behavior 
and mind is not, contrary to traditional theory, an 
original datum. Doubtless physical or physiological 
individuality always colors responsive activity and 
hence modifies the form which custom assumes in its 
personal reproductions. In forceful energetic char- 
acters this quality is marked. But it is important to 
note that it is a quality of habit, not an element or 
force existing apart from adjustment of the en- 
vironment and capable of being termed a separate in- 
dividual mind. Orthodox psychology starts however 
from the assumption of precisely such independent 
minds. However much different schools may vary in 
their definitions of mind, they agree in this premiss 
of separateness and priority. Hence social psychology 



is confused by the effort to render its facts in the terms 
characteristic of old psychology, when the distinctive 
thing about it is that it implies an abandonment of that 

The traditional psychology of the original separate 
soul, mind or consciousness is in truth a reflex of con- 
ditions which cut human nature off from its natural 
objective relations. It implies first the severance of] 
man from nature and then of each man from his fel-l 
lows. The isolation of man from nature is duly mani- 
fested in the split between mind and body since body 
is clearly a connected part of nature. Thus the instru- 
ment of action and the means of the continuous modi- 
fication of action, of the cumulative carrying forward KJ> 
of old activity into new, is regarded as a mysterious^/* ^\> 
intruder or as a mysterious parallel accompaniment. 
It is fair to say that the psychology of a separate and 
independent consciousness began ag_ an intellectual i 
formulation of those facts of morality which treated/ 
the most important kind of action as a j>rivate c 
cern, something to be enacted and concluded within 
character as a_purely personal possession. The re- 
ligious and metaphysical interests which wanted the 
ideal to be a separate realm finally coincided with a 
practical revolt against current customs and institu- 
tions to enforce current psychological individualism. 
But this formulation (put forth in the name of science)/ 
reacted to confirm the conditions out of which it arose, 
and to convert it from a historic episode into an essen- 
tial truth. Its exaggeration of individuality is largely 


a compensatory reaction against the pressure of insti- 
tutional rigidities. 

Any moral theory which is seriously influenced by 
current psychological theory is bound to emphasize 
states of consciousness, an inner private life, at the ex- 
pense of acts which have public meaning and which 
incorporate and exact social relationships. A psy- 
chology based upon habits (and instincts which become 
elements in habits as soon as they are acted upon) will 
on the contrary fix its attention upon the objective 
conditions in which habits are formed and operate. The 
rise at the present time of a clinical psychology which 
revolts at traditional and orthodox psychology is a 
symptom of ethical import. It is a protest against the 
futility, as a tool of understanding and dealing with 
human nature in the concrete, of the psychology of 
conscious sensations, images and ideas. It exhibits a 
sense for reality in its insistence upon the profound 
importance of unconscious forces in determining not 
only overt conduct but desire, judgment, belief, ideal- 

Every moment of reaction and protest, however, 
usually accepts some of the basic ideas of the position 
against which it rebels. So the most popular forms of 
the clinical psychology, those associated with the 
founders of psycho-analysis, retain the notion of a sep- 
arate psychic realm or force. They add a statement 
pointing to facts of the utmost value, and which is 
equivalent to practical recognition of the dependence of 


mind upon habit and of habit upon social conditions. 
This is the statement of the existence and operation of 
the " unconscious," of complexes due to contacts and 
conflicts with others, of the social censor. But they still 
cling to the idea of the separate psychic realm and so 
in effect talk about unconscious consciousness. They 
get their truths mixed up in theory with the false psy- 
chology of original individual consciousness, just as 
the school of social psychologists does upon its side. 
Their elaborate artificial explanations, like the mystic 
collective mind, consciousness, over-soul, of social psy- 
chology, are due to failure to begin with the facts of 
habit and custom. 

What then is meant by individual mind, by mind as 
individual? In effect the reply has already been given. 
Conflict of habits releases impulsive activities which in 
their manifestation require a modification of habit, of 
custom and convention. That which was at first the in- 
dividualized color or quality of habitual activity is ab- 
stracted, and becomes a center of activity aiming to 
reconstruct customs in accord with some desire which 
is rejected by the immediate situation and which there- 
fore is felt to belong to one's self, to be the mark and 
possession of an individual in partial and temporary 
opposition to his environment. These general and nec- 
essarily vague statements will be made more definite in 
the further discussion of impulse and intelligence. For 
impulse when it asserts itself deliberately against an 
existing custom is the beginning of individuality in 


mind. This beginning is developed and consolidated in 
the observations, judgments, inventions which try to 
transform the environment so that a variant, deviating 
impulse may itself in turn become incarnated in ob- 
jective habit. 



HABITS as organized activities are secondary and 
acquired, not native and original. They are out- 
growths of unlearned activities which are part of man's 
endowment at birth. The order of topics followed in 
our discussion may accordingly be questioned. Why 
should what is derived and therefore in some sense ar- 
tificial in conduct be discussed before what is primitive, 
natural and inevitable? Why did we not set out with 
an examination of those instinctive activities upon 
which the acquisition of habits is conditioned? 

The query is a natural one, yet it tempts to flinging 
forth a paradox. In conduct the acquired is the prim- 
itive. Impulses although first in time are never pri- 
mary in fact; they are secondary and dependent. The 
seeming paradox in statement covers a familiar fact. 
In the life of the individual, instinctive activity comes 
first. But an individual begins life as a baby, and 
babies are dependent beings. Their activities could 
continue at most for only a few hours were it not for 
the presence and aid of adults with their formed habits. 
And babies owe to adults more than procreation, more 



than the continued food and protection which preserve 
life. They owe to adults the opportunity to express 
their native activities in ways which have meaning. 
Even if by some miracle original activity could continue 
without assistance from the organized skill and art of 
adults, it would not amount to anything. It would be 
mere sound and fury. 

In short, the meaning of native activities is not na- 
tive; it is acquired. It depends upon interaction with 
a matured social medium. In the case of a tiger or 
eagle, anger may be identified with a serviceable life- 
activity, with attack and defense. With a human being 
it is as meaningless as a gust of wind on a mudpuddle 
apart from a direction given it by the presence of other 
persons, apart from the responses they make to it. It 
is a physical spasm, a blind dispersive burst of waste- 
ful energy. It gets quality, significance, when it be- 
comes a smouldering sullenness, an annoying interrup- 
tion, a peevish irritation, a murderous revenge, a blaz- 
ing indignation. And although these phenomena which 
have a meaning spring from original native reactions 
to stimuli, yet they depend also upon the responsive 
behavior of others. They and all similar human dis- 
plays of anger are not pure impulses ; they are habits 
formed under the influence of association with others 
who have habits already and who show their habits in 
the treatment which converts a blind physical discharge 
into a significant anger. 

After ignoring impulses for a long time in behalf of 
sensations, modern psychology now tends to start out 


with an inventory and description of instinctive activ- 
ities. This is an undoubted improvement. But when 
it tries to explain complicated events in personal and 
social life by direct reference to these native powers, 
the explanation becomes hazy and forced. It is like 
saying the flea and the elephant, the lichen and the red- 
wood, the timid hare and the ravening wolf, the plant 
with the most inconspicuous blossom and the plant with 
the most glaring color are alike products of natural 
selection. There may be a sense in which the statement 
is true; but till we know the specific environing condi- 
tions under which selection took place we really know 
nothing. And so we need to know about the social 
conditions which have educated original activities into 
definite and significant dispositions before we can dis- 
cuss the psychological element in society. This is the 
true meaning of social psychology. 

At some place on the globe, at some time, every kind 
of practice seems to have been tolerated or even praised. 
How is the tremendous diversity of institutions (includ- 
ing moral codes) to be accounted for? The native 
stock of instincts is practically the same everywhere. 
Exaggerate as much as we like the native differences of 
Patagonians and Greeks, Sioux Indians and Hindoos, 
Bushmen and Chinese, their original differences will bear 
no comparison to the amount of difference found in 
custom and culture. Since such a diversity cannot be 
attributed to an original identity, the development of 
native impulse must be stated in terms of acquired 
habits, not the growth of customs in terms of instincts. 


The wholesale human sacrifices of Peru and the tender- 
ness of St. Francis, the cruelties of pirates and the 
philanthropies of Howard, the practice of Suttee and 
the cult of the Virgin, the war and peace dances of the 
Comanches and the parliamentary institutions of the 
British, the communism of the southsea islander and 
the proprietary thrift of the Yankee, the magic of the 
medicine man and the experiments of the chemist in his 
laboratory, the non-resistance of Chinese and the ag- 
gressive militarism of an imperial Prussia, monarchy 
by divine right and government by the people; the 
countless diversity of habits suggested by such a ran- 
dom list springs from practically the same capital-stock 
of native instincts. 

It would be pleasant if we could pick and choose 
those institutions which we like and impute them to 
human nature, and the rest to some devil ; or those we 
like to our kind of human nature, and those we dislike 
to the nature of despised foreigners on the ground they 
are not really " native " at all. It would appear to be 
simpler if we could point to certain customs, saying 
that they are the unalloyed products of certain in- 
stincts, while those other social arrangements are to be 
attributed wholly to other impulses. But such methods 
are not feasible. The same original fears, angers, loves 
and hates are hopelessly entangled in the most opposite 
institutions. The thing we need to know is how a 
native stock has been modified by interaction with dif- 
ferent environments. 

Yet it goes without saying that original, unlearned 


activity has its distinctive place and that an important 
one in conduct. Impulses are the pivots upon which 
the re-organization of activities turn, they are agencies 
of deviation, for giving new directions to old habits 
and changing their quality. Consequently whenever 
we are concerned with understanding social transition 
and flux or with projects for reform, personal and col- 
lective, our study must go to analysis of native ten- 
dencies. Interest in progress and reform is, indeed, the 
reason for the present great development of scientific 
interest in primitive human nature. If we inquire why 
men were so long blind to the existence of powerful and 
varied instincts in human beings, the answer seems to 
be found in the lack of a conception of orderly progress. 
It is fast becoming incredible that psychologists dis- 
puted as to whether they should choose between innate 
ideas and an empty, passive, wax-like mind. For it 
seems as if a glance at a child would have revealed that 
the truth lay in neither doctrine, so obvious is the surg- 
ing of specific native activities. But this obtuseness 
to facts was evidence of lack of interest in what could 
be done with impulses, due, in turn, to lack of interest in 
modifying existing institutions. It is no accident that 
men became interested in the psychology of savages 
and babies when they became interested in doing away 
with old institutions. 

A combination of traditional individualism with the 
recent interest in progress explains why the discovery 
of the scope and force of instincts has led many psy- 
chologists to think of them as the fountain head of all 


conduct, as occupying a place before instead of after 
that of habits. The orthodox tradition in psychology 
is built upon isolation of individuals from their sur- 
roundings. The soul or mind or consciousness was 
thought of as self-contained and self-enclosed. Now in 
the career of an individual if it is regarded as com- 
plete in itself instincts clearly come before habits. Gen- 
eralize this individualistic view, and we have an assump- 
tion that all customs, all significant episodes in the life 
of individuals can be carried directly back to the opera- 
tion of instincts. 

But, as we have already noted, if an individual be 
isolated in this fashion, along with the fact of primacy 
of instinct we find also the fact of death. The inchoate 
and scattered impulses of an infant do not coordinate 
into serviceable powers except through social depend- 
encies and companionships. His impulses are merely 
starting points for assimilation of the knowledge and 
skill of the more matured beings upon whom he depends. 
They are tentacles sent out to gather that nutrition 
from customs which will in time render the infant cap- 
able of independent action. They are agencies for 
transfer of existing social power into personal ability; 
they are means of reconstructive growth. Abandon an 
impossible individualistic psychology, and we arrive at 
the fact that native activities are organs of re-organ- 
ization and re-adjustment. The hen precedes the egg. 
But nevertheless this particular egg may be so treated 
as to modify the future type of hen. 


In the case of the young it is patent that impulses 
are highly flexible starting points for activities which 
are diversified according to the ways in which they are 
used. Any impulse may become organized into almost 
any disposition according to the way it interacts with 
surroundings. Fear may become abject cowardice, 
prudent caution, reverence for superiors or respect for 
equals; an agency for credulous swallowing of absurd 
superstitions or for wary scepticism. A man may be 
chiefly afraid of the spirits of his ancestors, of officials, 
of arousing the disapproval of his associates, of being 
deceived, of fresh air, or of Bolshevism. The actual 
outcome depends upon how the impulse of fear is inter- 
woven with other impulses. This depends in turn upon 
the outlets and inhibitions supplied by the social en- 

In a definite sense, then, a human society is always 
starting afresh. It is always in process of renewing, 
and it endures only because of renewal. We speak of 
the peoples of southern Europe as Latin peoples. Their 
existing languages depart widely from one another and 
from the Latin mother tongue. Yet there never was a 
day when this alteration of speech was intentional or 
explicit. Persons always meant to reproduce the speech 
they heard from their elders and supposed they were 



succeeding. This fact may stand as a kind of symbol 
of the reconstruction wrought in habits because of the 
fact that they can be transmitted and be made to en- 
dure only through the medium of the crude activities 
of the young or through contact with persons having 
different habits. 

For the most part, this continuous alteration has 
been unconscious and unintended. Immature, undevel- 
oped activity has succeeded in modifying adult organ- 
ized activity accidentally and surreptitiously. But 
with the dawn of the idea of progressive betterment and 
an interest in new uses of impulses, there has grown 
up some consciousness of the extent to which a future 
new society of changed purposes and desires may be 
created by a deliberate humane treatment of the im- 
pulses of youth. This is the meaning of education; 
for a truly humane education consists in an intelligent 
direction of native activities in the light of the possi- 
bilities and necessities of the social situation. But for 
the most part, adults have given training rather than 
education. An impatient, premature mechanization of 
impulsive activity after the fixed pattern of adult habits 
of thought and affection has been desired. The com- 
bined effect of love of power, timidity in the face of the 
novel and a self-admiring complacency has been too 
strong to permit immature impulse to exercise its re- 
organizing potentialities. The younger generation 
has hardly even knocked frankly at the door of adult 
customs, much less been invited in to rectify through 
better education the brutalities and inequities estab- 


lished in adult habits. Each new generation has crept 
blindly and furtively through such chance gaps as have 
happened to be left open. Otherwise it has been mod- 
eled after the old. 

We have already noted how original plasticity is 
warped and docility is taken mean advantage of. It 
has been used to signify not capacity to learn liberally 
and generously, but willingness to learn the customs of 
adult associates, ability to learn just those special 
things which those having power and authority wish 
to teach. Original modifiability has not been given a 
fair chance to act as a trustee for a better human life. 
It has been loaded with convention, biased by adult 
convenience. It has been practically rendered into an 
equivalent of non-assertion of originality, a pliant ac- 
commodation to the embodied opinions of others. 

Consequently docility has been identified with imi- 
tativeness, instead of with power to re-make old habits, 
to re-create. Plasticity and originality have been op- 
posed to each other. That the most precious part of 
plasticity consists in ability to form habits of inde- 
pendent judgment and of inventive initiation has been 
ignored. For it demands a more complete and intense 
docility to form flexible easily re-adjusted habits than 
it does to acquire those which rigidly copy the ways 
of others. In short, among the native activities of the 
young are some that work towards accommodation, as- 
similation, reproduction, and others that work toward 
exploration, discovery and creation. But the weight 
of adult custom has been thrown upon retaining 


and strengthening tendencies toward conformity, and 
against those which make for variation and independ- 
ence. The habits of the growing person are jealously 
kept within the limit of adult customs. The delightful 
originality of the child is tamed. Worship of institu- 
tions and personages themselves lacking in imaginative 
foresight, versatile observation and liberal thought, is 

Very early in life sets of mind are formed without 
attentive thought, and these sets persist and control the 
mature mind. The child learns to avoid the shock of 
unpleasant disagreement, to find the easy way out, 
to appear to conform to customs which are wholly 
mysterious to him in order to get his own way that 
is to display some natural impulse without exciting the 
unfavorable notice of those in authority. Adults dis- 
trust the intelligence which a child has while making 
upon him demands for a kind of conduct that requires 
a high order of intelligence, if it is to be intelligent at 
all. The inconsistency is reconciled by instilling in him 
" moral " habits which have a maximum of emotional 
empressment and adamantine hold with a minimum of 
understanding. These habitudes, deeply engrained be- 
fore thought is awake and even before the day of ex- 
periences which can later be recalled, govern conscious 
later thought. They are usually deepest and most 
unget-at-able just where critical thought is most needed 
in morals, religion and politics. These " infantal- 
isms " account for the mass of irrationalities that pre- 
vail among men of otherwise rational tastes. These 


personal " hang-overs " are the cause of what the stu- 
dent of culture calls survivals. But unfortunately 
these survivals are much more numerous and pervasive 
than the anthropologist and historian are wont to ad- 
mit. To list them would perhaps oust one from " re- 
spectable " society. 

And yet the intimation never wholly deserts us that 
there is in the unformed activities of childhood and 
youth the possibilities of a better life for the com- 
munity as well as for individuals here and there. This 
dim sense is the ground of our abiding idealization of 
childhood. For with all its extravagancies and uncer- 
tainties, its effusions and reticences, it remains a stand- 
ing proof of a life wherein growth is normal not an 
anomaly, activity a delight not a task, and where habit- 
forming is an expansion of power not its shrinkage. 
Habit and impulse may war with each other, but it is 
a combat between the habits of adults and the impulses 
of the young, and not, as with the adult, a civil war- 
fare whereby personality is rent asunder. Our usual 
measure for the " goodness " of children is the amount 
of trouble they make for grownups, which means of 
course the amount they deviate from adult habits and 
expectations. Yet by way of expiation we envy chil- 
dren their love of new experiences, their intentness in 
extracting the last drop of significance from each sit- 
uation, their vital seriousness in things that to us are 

We compensate for the harshness and monotony 
of our present insistence upon formed habits by 


imagining a future heaven in which we too shall respond 
freshly and generously to each incident of life. In 
consequence of our divided attitude, our ideals are self- 
contradictory. On the one hand, we dream of an at- 
tained perfection, an ultimate static goal, in which 
effort shall cease, and desire and execution be once and 
for all in complete equilibrium. We wish for a char- 
acter which shall be steadfast, and we then conceive this 
desired faithfulness as something immutable, a char- 
acter exactly the same yesterday, today and forever. 
But we also have a sneaking sympathy for the courage 
of an Emerson in declaring that consistency should be 
thrown to the winds when it stands between us and the 
opportunities of present life. We reach out to the 
opposite extreme of our ideal of fixity, and* under 
the guise of a return to nature dream of a romantic 
freedom, in which all life is plastic to impulse, a con- 
tinual source of improvised spontaneities and novel in- 
spirations. We rebel against all organization and all 
stability. If modern thought and sentiment is to es- 
cape from this division in its ideals, it must be through 
utilizing released impulse as an agent of steady re- 
organization of custom and institutions. 

While childhood is the conspicuous proof of the 
renewing of habit rendered possible by impulse, the 
latter never wholly ceases to play its refreshing role 
in adult life. If it did, life would petrify, society stag- 
nate. Instinctive reactions are sometimes too intense 
to be woven into a smooth pattern of habits. Under 
ordinary circumstances they appear to be tamed to 


obey their master, custom. But extraordinary crises 
release them and they show by wild violent energy how 
superficial is the control of routine. The saying that 
civilization is only skin deep, that a savage persists 
beneath the clothes of a civilized man, is the common 
acknowledgment of this fact. At critical moments of 
unusual stimuli the emotional outbreak and rush of 
instincts dominating all activity show how superficial 
is the modification which a rigid habit has been able to 

When we face this fact in its general significance, 
we confront one of the ominous aspects of the history 
of man. We realize how little the progress of man 
has been the product of intelligent guidance, how 
largely it has been a by-product of accidental upheav- 
als, even though by an apologetic interest in behalf of 
some privileged institution we later transmute chance 
into providence. We have depended upon the clash of 
war, the stress of revolution, the emergence of heroic 
individuals, the impact of migrations generated by war 
and famine, the incoming of barbarians, to change es- 
tablished institutions. Instead of constantly utilizing 
unused impulse to effect continuous reconstruction, we 
have waited till an accumulation of stresses suddenly 
breaks through the dikes of custom. 

It is often supposed that as old persons die, so must 
old peoples. There are many facts in history to sup- 
port the belief. Decadence and degeneration seems to 
be the rule as age increases. An irruption of some un- 
civilized horde has then provided new blood and fresh 


life so much so that history has been defined as a pro- 
cess of rebarbarization. In truth the analogy between 
a person and a nation with respect to senescence and 
death is defective. A nation is always renewed by the 
death of its old constituents and the birth of those who 
are as young and fresh as ever were any individuals in 
the hey-day of the nation's glory. Not the nation but 
its customs get old. Its institutions petrify into rigid- 
ity; there is social arterial sclerosis. Then some peo- 
ple not overburdened with elaborate and stiff habits 
take up and carry on the moving process of life. The 
stock of fresh peoples is, however, approaching ex- 
haustion. It is not safe to rely upon this expensive 
method of renewing civilization. We need to discover 
how to rejuvenate it from within. A normal perpetu- 
ation becomes a fact in the degree in which impulse is 
released and habit is plastic to the transforming touch 
of impulse. When customs are flexible and youth is 
educated as youth and not as premature adulthood, 
no nation grows old. 

There always exists a goodly store of non-function- 
ing impulses which may be drawn upon. Their mani- 
festation and utilization is called conversion or regen- 
eration when it comes suddenly. But they may be 
drawn upon continuously and moderately. Then we 
call it learning or educative growth. Rigid custom 
signifies not that there are no such impulses but that 
they are not organically taken advantage of. As mat- 
ter of fact, the stiffer and the more encrusted the cus- 
toms, the larger is the number of instinctive activities 


that find no regular outlet and that accordingly merely 
await a chance to get an irregular, uncoordinated man- 
ifestation. Routine habits never take up all the slack. 
They apply only where conditions remain the same or 
recur in uniform ways. They do not fit the unusual 
and novel. 

Consequently rigid moral codes that attempt to lay 
down definite injunctions and prohibitions for every 
occasion in life turn out in fact loose and slack. 
Stretch ten commandments or any other number as far 
as you will by ingenious exegesis, yet acts unprovided 
for by them will occur. No elaboration of statute law 
can forestall variant cases and the need of interpreta- 
tion ad hoc. Moral and legal schemes that attempt 
the impossible in the way of definite formulation com- 
pensate for explicit strictness in some lines by implicit 
looseness in others. The only truly severe code is the 
one which foregoes codification, throwing responsibility 
for judging each case upon the agents concerned, im- 
posing upon them the burden of discovery and adap- 

The relation which actually exists between un- 
directed instinct and over-organized custom is illus- 
trated in the two views that are current about savage 
life. The popular view looks at the savage as a wild 
man; as one who knows no controlling principles or 
rules of action, who freely follows his own impulse, 
whim or desire whenever it seizes him and wherever it 
takes him. Anthropologists are given to the opposed 
notion. They view savages as bondsmen to custom. 


They note the network of regulations that order his 
risings-up and his sittings-down, his goings-out and 
his comings-in. They conclude that in comparison 
with civilized man the savage is a slave, governed by 
many inflexible tribal habitudes in conduct and ideas. 

The truth about savage life lies in a combination of 
these two conceptions. Where customs exist they are 
of one pattern and binding on personal sentiment and 
thought to a degree unknown in civilized life. But since 
they cannot possibly exist with respect to all the chang- 
ing detail of daily life, whatever is left uncovered by 
custom is free from regulation. It is therefore left to 
appetite and momentary circumstance. Thus enslave- 
ment to custom and license of impulse exist side by side. 
Strict conformity and unrestrained wildness intensify 
each other. This picture of life shows us in an exag- 
gerated form the psychology current in civilized life 
whenever customs harden and hold individuals en- 
meshed. Within civilization, the savage still exists. He 
is known in his degree by oscillation between loose in- 
dulgence and stiff habit. 

Impulse in short brings with itself the possibility 
but not the assurance of a steady reorganization of 
habits to meet new elements in new situations. The 
moral problem in child and adult alike as regards im- 
pulse and instinct is to utilize them for formation of 
new habits, or what is the same thing, the modification 
of an old habit so that it may be adequately serviceable 
under novel conditions. The place of impulse in con- 
duct as a pivot of re-adjustment, 're-organization, in 


habits may be defined as follows: On one side, it is 
marked off from the territory of arrested and encrusted 
habits. On the other side, it is demarcated from the 
region in which impulse is a law unto itself.* General- 
izing these distinctions, a valid moral theory contrasts 
with all those theories which set up static goals (even 
when they are called perfection), and with those the- 
ories which idealize raw impulse and find in its spon- 
taneities an adequate mode of human freedom. Im- 
pulse is a source, an indispensable source, of liberation ; 
but only as it is employed in giving habits pertinence 
and freshness does it liberate power. 

* The use of the words instinct and impulse as practical equiva- 
lents is intentional, even though it may grieve critical readers. 
The word instinct taken alone is still too laden with the older 
notion that an instinct is always definitely organized and adapted 
which for the most part is just what it is not in human beings. 
The word impulse suggests something primitive, yet loose, undi- 
rected, initial. Man can progress as boasts cannot, precisely 
because he has so many ' instincts ' that they cut across one 
another, so that most serviceable actions must be learned. In 
learning habits it ia possible for man to learn the habit of 
learning. Then betterment becomes a conscious principle of life. 


Incidentally we have touched upon a most far-reach- 
ing problem: The alterability of human nature. Early 
reformers, following John Locke, were inclined to mini- 
mize the significance of native activities, and to em- 
phasize the possibilities inherent in practice and habit- 
acquisition. There was a political slant to this denial 
of the native and a priori, this magnifying of the ac- 
complishments of acquired experience. It held out a 
prospect of continuous development, of improvement 
without end. Thus writers like Helvetius made the idea 
of the complete malleability of a human nature which 
originally is wholly empty and passive, the basis for 
asserting the omnipotence of education to shape human 
society, and the ground of proclaiming the infinite per- 
fectibility of mankind. 

Wary, experienced men of the world have always 
been sceptical of schemes of unlimited improvement. 
They tend to regard plans for social change with an 
eye of suspicion. They find in them evidences of the 
proneness of youth to illusion, or of incapacity on the 
part of those who have grown old to learn anything 
from experience. This type of conservative has 
thought to find in the doctrine of native instincts a 
scientific support for asserting the practical unaltera- 
bility of human nature. Circumstances may change 



but human nature remains from age to age the same. 
Heredity is more potent than environment, and human 
heredity is untouched by human intent. Effort for a 
serious alteration of human institutions is utopian. As 
things have been so they will be. The more they change 
the more they remain the same. 

Curiously enough both parties rest their case upon 
just the factor which when it is analyzed weakens their 
respective conclusions. That is to say, the radical re- 
former rests his contention in behalf of easy and rapid 
change upon the psychology of habits, of institutions 
in shaping raw nature, and the conservative grounds 
his counter-assertion upon the psychology of instincts. 
As matter of fact, it is precisely custom which has 
greatest inertia, which is least susceptible of alteration ; 
while instincts are most readily modifiable through use, 
most subject to educative direction. The conservative 
who begs scientific support from the psychology of in- 
stincts is the victim of an outgrown psychology which 
derived its notion of instinct from an exaggeration of 
the fixity and certainty of the operation of instincts 
among the lower animals. He is a victim of a popular 
zoology of the bird, bee and beaver, which was largely 
framed to the greater glory of God. He is ignorant 
that instincts in the animals are less infallible and defi- 
nite than is supposed, and also that the human being 
differs from the lower animals in precisely the fact that 
his native activities lack the complex ready-made or- 
ganization of the animals' original abilities. 

But the short-cut revolutionist fails to realize the 


full force of the things about which he talks most, 
namely institutions as embodied habits. Any one with 
knowledge of the stability and force of habit will hesi- 
tate to propose or prophesy rapid and sweeping social 
changes. A social revolution may effect abrupt and 
deep alterations in external customs, in legal and po- 
litical institutions. But the habits that are behind 
these institutions and that have, willy-nilly, been shaped 
by objective conditions, the habits of thought and feel- 
ing, are not so easily modified. They persist and in- 
sensibly assimilate to themselves the outer innovations 
much as American judges nullify the intended 
changes of statute law by interpreting legislation in 
the light of common law. The force of lag in human 
life is enormous. 

Actual social change is never so great as is apparent 
change. Ways of belief, of expectation, of judgment 
and attendant emotional dispositions of like and dis- 
like, are not easily modified after they have once taken 
shape. Political and legal institutions may be altered, 
even abolished ; but the bulk of popular thought which 
has been shaped to their pattern persists. This is why 
glowing predictions of the immediate coming of a social 
millennium terminate so uniformly in disappoint- 
ment, which gives point to the standing suspicion of 
the cynical conservative about radical changes. Habits 
of thought outlive modifications in habits of overt 
action. The former are vital, the latter, without the 
sustaining life of the former, are muscular tricks. Con- 
sequently as a rule the moral effects of even great po- 


litical revolutions, after a few years of outwardly con- 
spicuous alterations, do not show themselves till after 
the lapse of years. A new generation must come upon 
the scene whose habits of mind have been formed under 
the new conditions. There is pith in the saying that 
important reforms cannot take real effect until after 
a number of influential persons have died. Where gen- 
eral and enduring moral changes do accompany an 
external revolution it is because appropriate habits of 
thought have previously been insensibly matured. The 
external change merely registers the removal of an ex- 
ternal superficial barrier to the operation of existing 
intellectual tendencies. 

Those who argue that social and moral reform is 
impossible on the ground that the Old Adam of human 
nature remains forever the same, attribute however to 
native activities the permanence and inertia that in 
truth belong only to acquired customs. To Aristotle 
slavery was rooted in aboriginal human nature. Na- 
tive distinctions of quality exist such that some persons 
are by nature gifted with power to plan, command and 
supervise, and others possess merely capacity to obey 
and execute. Hence slavery is natural and inevitable. 
There is error in supposing that because domestic and 
chattel slavery has been legally abolished, therefore 
slavery as conceived by Aristotle has disappeared. But 
matters have at least progressed to a point where it is 
clear that slavery is a social state not a psychological 
necessity. Nevertheless the worldlywise Aristotles of 
today assert that the institutions of war and the pres- 


ent wage-system are so grounded in immutable human 
nature that effort to change them is foolish. 

Like Greek slavery or feudal serfdom, war and the 
existing economic regime are social patterns woven out 
of the stuff of instinctive activities. Native human 
nature supplies the raw materials, but custom furnishes 
the machinery and the designs. War would not be pos- 
sible without anger, pugnacity, rivalry, self-display, 
and such like native tendencies. Activity inheres in 
them and will persist under every condition of life. To 
imagine they can be eradicated is like supposing that 
society can go on without eating and without union of 
the sexes. But to fancy that they must eventuate in 
war is as if a savage were to believe that because he 
uses fibers having fixed natural properties in order to 
weave baskets, therefore his immemorial tribal patterns 
are also natural necessities and immutable forms. 

From a humane standpoint our study of history is 
still all too primitive. It is possible to study a multi- 
tude of histories, and yet permit history, the record of 
the transitions and transformations of human activities, 
to escape us. Taking history in separate doses of this 
country and that, we take it as a succession of isolated 
finalities, each one in due season giving way to another, 
as supernumeraries succeed one another in a march 
across the stage. We thus miss the fact of history and 
also its lesson ; the diversity of institutional forms and 
customs which the same human nature may produce 
and employ. An infantile logic, now happily expelled 
from physical science, taught that opium put men tt> 


sleep because of its dormitive potency. We follow the 
same logic in social matters when we believe that war 
exists because of bellicose instincts; or that a partic- 
ular economic regime is necessary because of acquisi- 
tive and competitive impulses which must find ex- 

Pugnacity and fear are no more native than are 
pity and sympathy. The important thing morally is 
the way these native tendencies interact, for their inter- 
action may give a chemical transformation not a me- 
chanical combination. Similarly, no social institution 
stands alone as a product of one dominant force. It is 
a phenomenon or function of a multitude of social fac- 
tors in their mutual inhibitions and reinforcements. If 
we follow an infantile logic we shall reduplicate the 
unity of result in an assumption of unity of force be- 
hind it as men once did with natural events, employing 
teleology as an exhibition of causal efficiency. We thus 
take the same social custom twice over: once as an 
existing fact and then as an original force which pro- 
duced the fact, and utter sage platitudes about the 
unalterable workings of human nature or of race. As 
we account for war by pugnacity, for the capitalistic 
system by the necessity of an incentive of gain to stir 
ambition and effort, so we account for Greece by power 
of esthetic observation, Rome by administrative ability, 
the middle ages by interest in religion and so on. We 
have constructed an elaborate political zoology as 
mythological and not nearly as poetic as the other 
zoology 9f phoenixes, griffins and unicorns. Native 


racial spirit, the spirit of the people or of the time, 
national destiny are familiar figures in this social zoo. 
As names for effects, for existing customs, they are 
sometimes useful. As names for explanatory forces 
they work havoc with intelligence. 

An immense debt is due William James for the mere 
title of his essay: The Moral Equivalents of War. It 
reveals with a flash of light the true psychology. 
Clans, tribes, races, cities, empires, nations, states have 
made war. The argument that this fact proves an 
ineradicable belligerent instinct which makes war for- 
ever inevitable is much more respectable than many 
arguments about the immutability of this and that 
social tradition. For it has the weight of a certain 
empirical generality back of it. Yet the suggestion of 
an equivalent for war calls attention to the medley of 
impulses which are casually bunched together under the 
caption of belligerent impulse ; and it calls attention to 
the fact that the elements of this medley may be woven 
together into many differing types of activity, some 
of which may function the native impulses in much 
better ways than war has ever done. 

Pugnacity, rivalry, vainglory, love of booty, fear, 
suspicion, anger, desire for freedom from the conven- 
tions and restrictions of peace, love of power and 
hatred of oppression, opportunity for novel displays, 
love of home and soil, attachment to one's people and 
to the altar and the hearth, courage, loyalty, oppor- 
tunity to make a name, money or a career, affection, 
piety to ancestors and ancestral gods all of these 


things and many more make up the war-like force. To 
suppose there is some one unchanging native force which 
generates war is as naive as the usual assumption that 
our enemy is actuated solely by the meaner of the ten- 
dencies named and we only by the nobler. In earlier 
days there was something more than a verbal connec- 
tion between pugnacity and fighting; anger and fear 
moved promptly through the fists. But between a 
loosely organized pugilism and the highly organized 
warfare of today there intervenes a long economic, 
scientific and political history. Social conditions 
rather than an old and unchangeable Adam have gen- 
erated wars ; the ineradicable impulses that are utilized 
in them are capable of being drafted into many other 
channels. The century that has witnessed the triumph 
of the scientific doctrine of the convertibility of natural 
energies ought not to balk at the lesser miracle of 
social equivalences and substitutes. 

It is likely that if Mr. James had witnessed the world 
war, he would have modified his mode of treatment. So 
many new transformations entered into the war, that 
the war seems to prove that though an equivalent has 
not been found for war, the psychological forces tra- 
ditionally associated with it have already undergone 
profound changes. We may take the Iliad as a classic 
expression of war's traditional psychology as well as 
the source of the literary tradition regarding its mo- 
tives and glories. But where are Helen, Hector and 
Achilles in modern warfare? The activities that evoke 
and incorporate a war are no longer personal love, 


love of glory, or the soldier's love of his own privately 
amassed booty, but are of a collective, prosaic political 
and economic nature. 

Universal conscription, the general mobilization of 
all agricultural and industrial forces of the folk not 
engaged in the trenches, the application of every con- 
ceivable scientific and mechanical device, the mass 
movements of soldiery regulated from a common center 
by a depersonalized general staff: these factors relegate 
the traditional psychological apparatus of war to a 
now remote antiquity. The motives once appealed to 
are out of date; they do not now induce war. They 
simply are played upon after war has been brought 
into existence in order to keep the common soldiers 
keyed up to their task. The more horrible a deper- 
sonalized scientific mass war becomes, the more neces- 
sary it is to find universal ideal motives to justify it. 
Love of Helen of Troy has become a burning love for 
all humanity, and hatred of the foe symbolizes a hatred 
of all the unrighteousness and injustice and oppression 
which he embodies. The more prosaic the actual causes, 
the more necessary is it to find glowingly sublime 

Such considerations hardly prove that war is to be 
abolished at some future date. But they destroy that 
argument for its necessary continuance which is based 
on the immutability of specified forces in original human 
nature. Already the forces that once caused wars have 
found other outlets for themselves ; while new provoca- 
tions, based on new economic and political conditions, 


have come into being. War is thus seen to be a function 
of social institutions, not of what is natively fixed in 
human constitution. The last great war has not, it 
must be confessed, made the problem of finding social 
equivalents simpler and easier. It is now naive to at- 
tribute war to specific isolable human impulses for 
which separate channels of expression may be found, 
while the rest of life is left to go on about the same. 
A general social re-organization is needed which will 
redistribute forces, immunize, divert and nullify. Hin- 
ton was doubtless right when he wrote that the only 
way to abolish war was to make peace heroic. It now 
appears that the heroic emotions are not anything 
which may be specialized in a side-line, so that the war- 
impulses may find a sublimation in special practices 
and occupations. They have to get an outlet in all the 
tasks of peace. 

The argument for the abiding necessity of war turns 
out, accordingly, to have this much value. It makes us 
wisely suspicious of all cheap and easy equivalencies. 
It convinces us of the folly of striving to eliminate war 
by agencies which leave other institutions of society 
pretty much unchanged. History does not prove the 
inevitability of war, but it does prove that customs and 
institutions which organize native powers into certain 
patterns in politics and economics will also generate the 
war-pattern. The problem of war is difficult because it 
is serious. It is none other than the wider problem of 
the effective moralizing or humanizing of native im- 
pulses in times of peace. 


The case of economic institutions is as suggestive as 
that of war. The present system is indeed much more 
recent and more local than is the institution of war. But 
no system has ever as yet existed which did not in some 
form involve the exploitation of some human beings 
for the advantage of others. And it is argued that this 
trait is unassailable because it flows from the inherent, 
immutable qualities of human nature. It is argued, for 
example, that economic inferiorities and disabilities are 
incidents of an institution of private property which 
flows from an original proprietary instinct; it is con- 
tended they spring from a competitive struggle for 
wealth which in turn flows from the absolute need of 
profit as an inducement to industry. The pleas are 
worth examination for the light they throw upon the 
place of impulses in organized conduct. 

No unprejudiced observer will lightly deny the ex- 
istence of an original tendency to assimilate objects and 
events to the self, to make them part of the " me." We 
may even admit that the " me " cannot exist without 
the " mine." The self gets solidity and form through 
an appropriation of things which identifies them with 
whatever we call myself. Even a workman in a modern 
factory where depersonalization is extreme gets to have 
" his " machine and is perturbed at a change. Posses- 
sion shapes and consolidates the " I " of philosophers. 
" I own, therefore I am " expresses a truer psychology 
than the Cartesian " I think, therefore I am." A man's 
deeds are imputed to him as their owner, not merely 
as their creator. That he cannot disown them when 


the moment of their occurrence passes is the root of 
responsibility, moral as well as legal. 

But these same considerations evince the versatility 
of possessive activity. My worldly goods, my good 
name, my friends, my honor and shame all depend upon 
a possessive tendency. The need for appropriation has 
had to be satisfied; but only a calloused imagination 
fancies that the institution of private property as it 
exists A. D. 1921 is the sole or the indispensable means 
of its realization. Every gallant life is an experiment 
in different ways of fulfilling it. It expends itself in 
predatory aggression, in forming friendships, in seek- 
ing fame, in literary creation, in scientific production. 
In the face of this elasticity, it requires an arrogant ig- 
norance to take the existing complex system of stocks 
and bonds, of wills and inheritance, a system supported 
at every point by manifold legal and political arrange- 
ments, and treat it as the sole legitimate and baptized 
child of an instinct of appropriation. Sometimes, even 
now, a man most accentuates the fact of ownership 
when he gives something away; use, consumption, is 
the normal end of possession. We can conceive a state 
of things in which the proprietary impulse would get 
full satisfaction by holding goods as mine in just the 
degree in which they were visibly administered for a 
benefit in which a corporate community shared. 

Does the case stand otherwise with the other psycho- 
logical principle appealed to, namely, the need of an 
incentive of personal profit to keep men engaged in 
useful work ? We need not content ourselves with point- 


ing out the elasticity of the idea of gain, and possible 
equivalences for pecuniary gain, and the possibility of a 
state of affairs in which only those things would be 
counted personal gains which profit a group. It will 
advance the discussion if we instead subject to analysis 
the whole conception of incentive and motive. 

There is doubtless some sense in saying that j?yerj[ 
conscious act has an incentive or motive. But this 
senseis as truistic as that of the not dissimilar saying 
that every event has a cause. Neither statement throws 
any light on any particular occurrence. It is at most 
a maxim which advises us to search for some other fact 
with which the one in question may be correlated. 
Those who attempt to defend the necessity of existing 
economic institutions as manifestations of human na- 
ture convert this suggestion of a concrete inquiry into 
a generalized truth and hence into a definitive falsity. 
They take the saying to mean that nobody would do 
anything, or at least anything of use to others, with- 
out a prospect of some tangible reward. And beneath 
this false proposition there is another assumption still 
more monstrous, namely, that man exists naturally in a 
state of rest so that he requires some external force 
to set him into action. 

The idea of a thing intrinsically wholly inert in the 
sense of absolutely passive is expelled from physics and 
has taken refuge in the psychology of current econom- 
ics. In truth man acts anyway, he can't help acting. 
In every fundamental sense it is false that a man re- 
quires a motive to make him do something. To a 


healthy man inaction is the greatest of woes. Any one 
who observes children knows that while periods of rest 
are natural, laziness is an acquired vice or virtue. 
While a man is awake he will do something, if only to 
build castles in the air. If we like the form of words 
we may say that a man eats only because he is 
" moved " by hunger. The statement is nevertheless 
mere tautology. For what does hunger mean except 
that one of the things which man does naturally, in- 
stinctively, is to search for food that his activity nat- 
urally turns that way? Hunger primarily names an 
act or active process not a motive to an act. It is an 
act if we take it grossly, like a babe's blind hunt for the 
mother's breast ; it is an activity if we take it minutely 
as a chemico-physiological occurrence. 

The whole concept of motives is in truth extra- 
psychological. It is an outcome of the attempt of men 
to influence human action, first that of others, then of 
a man to influence his own behavior. No sensible person 
thinks of attributing the acts of an animal or an idiot 
to a motive. We call a biting dog ugly, but we don't 
look for his motive in biting. If however we were able 
to direct the dog's action by inducing him to reflect 
upon his acts, we should at once become interested in 
the dog's motives for acting as he does, and should 
endeavor to get him interested in the same subject. It_ 
is absurd to ask what induces a man to activity gen- 
erally speaking. He is an active being and that is all 
"there is to be said on that score. But when we want 
to get him to act in this specific way rather than in 


that, when we want to direct his. activity thaJL_is_tousay 
in a specified channel, then the question of inotiyeis 
pertinent. A motive is then that element in the total 
complex of a man's activity which, if it can be suf- 
ficiently stimulated, will result in an act having speci- 
fied consequences. And part of the process of intensi- 
fying (or reducing) certain elements in thejbotaj^actiyj- 
ityjmd thus regulating actual consequence is to impute 
these_^lementsto a person aj his Actuating motives. 

A child naturally grabs food. ButJie does it in our 
presence. His manner is socially displeasing and we 
attribute to his act, up to this time wholly innocent, 
the motive of greed or selfishness. Greediness simply 
means the quality of his act as socially observed and 
disapproved. But by attributing it to him as his mo- 
tive for acting in the disapproved way, we induce him 
to refrain. We analyze his total act and call his atten- 
tion to an obnoxious element in its outcome. A child 
with equal spontaneity, or thoughtlessness, gives way 
to others. We point out to him with approval that he 
acted considerately, generously. And this quality of 
action when noted and encouraged becomes a reinforc- 
ing stimulus of that factor which will induce similar 
acts in the future. An element in an act viewed as a 
tendency to produce such and such consequences is a 
motive. A motive does not exist ^rior J^in_act and 
produce it. It is an act plus a judgment upon some 
element o? it, the judgment being made in the light of 
the consequences of the act. 


At first, as was said, others characterize an act with 
favorable or condign qualities which they impute to an 
agent's character. They react in this fashion in order 
to encourage him in future acts of the same sort, or in 
order to dissuade him in short to build or destroy a 
habit. This characterization is part of the technique 
of influencing the development of character and con- 
duct. It is a refinement of the ordinary reactions of 
praise and blame. After a time and to some extent, 
a person teaches himself to think of the results of act- 
ing in this way or that before he acts. He recalls that 
if he acts this way or that some observer, real or im- 
aginary, will attribute to him noble or mean disposi- 
tion, virtuous or vicious motive. Thus he learns to in- 
fluence his own conduct. An inchoate activity taken 
in this forward-looking reference to results, especially 
results of approbation and condemnation, constitutes 
a motive. Instead then of saying that a man requires 
a motive in order tomduce him to^actT^wg^hbiil? say 
that when a man is going to act he needs to know what 
he_js going to do what the quality of his act is in 
terms~c^Tconsequences to follow. In order to act prop- 
erlyne needs to view his act as others view it ; namely, 
as a manifestation of a character or will which is good 
or bad according as it is bent upon specific things which 
are desirable or obnoxious. There is no call to furnish 
a man with incentives to^jictivity in general. But there 
is every need to induce him to guide his own action by 
an intelligent perception of its results. For in the long 


run this is the most effective way of influencing activity 
to take this desirable direction rather than that ob- 
jectionable one. 

A motive in short is simply an impulse viewed as a 
constituent in a habit, a factor in a disposition. In 
general its meaning is simple. But in fact motives are 
as numerous as are original impulsive activities multi- 
plied by the diversified consequences they produce as 
they operate under diverse conditions. How then does 
it come about that current economic psychology has so 
tremendously oversimplified the situation? Why does 
it recognize but one type of motive, that which con- 
cerns personal gain. Of course part of the answer is 
to be found in the natural tendency in all sciences 
toward a substitution of artificial conceptual simplifi- 
cations for the tangles of concrete empirical facts. But 
the significant part of the answer has to do with the 
social conditions under which work is done, conditions 
which are such as to put an unnatural emphasis upon 
the prospect of reward. It exemplifies again our lead- 
ing proposition that social customs are not direct and 
necessary consequences of specific impulses, but that 
social institutions and expectations shape and crystal- 
lize impulses into dominant habits. 

The social peculiarity which explains the emphasis 
put upon profit as an inducement to productive serv- 
iceable work stands out in high relief in the identifica- 
tion of work with labor. For labor means in economic 
theory something painful, something so onerously dis- 
agreeable or " costly " that every individual avoids it 


if he can, and engages in it only because of the prom- 
ise of an overbalancing gain. Thus the question we are 
invited to consider is what the social condition is which 
makes productive work uninteresting and toilsome. 
Why is the psychology of the industrialist so different 
from that of inventor, explorer, artist, sportsman, 
scientific investigator, physician, teacher? For the 
latter we do not assert that activity is such a burden- 
some sacrifice that it is engaged in only because men are 
bribed to act by hope of reward or are coerced by fear 
of loss. 

The social conditions under which " labor " is under- 
taken have become so uncongenial to human nature that 
it is not undertaken because of intrinsic meaning. It is 
carried on under conditions which render it immedi- 
ately irksome. The alleged need of an incentive to stir 
men out of quiescent inertness is the need of an incen- 
tive powerful enough to overcome contrary stimuli 
which proceed from the social conditions. Circum- 
stances of productive service now shear away direct 
satisfaction from those engaging in it. A real and 
important fact is thus contained in current economic 
psychology, but it is a fact about existing industrial 
conditions and not a fact about native, original 

It is " natural " for activity to be agreeable. It 
tends to find fulfillment, and finding an ouuet is itself 
satisfactory, for it marks partial accomplishment. If 
productive activity has become so inherently unsatis- 
factory that men have to be artificially induced to 


engage in it, this fact is ample proof that the condi- 
tions under which work is carried on balk the complex 
of activities instead of promoting them, irritate and 
frustrate natural tendencies instead of carrying them 
forward to fruition. Work then becomes labor, the 
consequence of some aboriginal curse which forces man 
to do what he would not do if he could help it, the out- 
come of some original sin which excluded man from a 
paradise in which desire was satisfied without industry, 
compelling him to pay for the means of livelihood with 
the sweat of his brow. From which it follows naturally 
that Paradise Regained means the accumulation of in- 
vestments such that a man can live upon their return 
without labor. There is, we repeat, too much truth in 
this picture. But it is not a truth concerning original 
human nature and activity. It concerns the form 
human impulses have taken under the influence of a 
specific social environment. If there are difficulties 
in the way of social alteration as there certainly are 
they do not lie in an original aversion of human na- 
ture to serviceable action, but in the historic conditions 
which have differentiated the work of the laborer for 
wage from that of the artist, adventurer, sportsman, 
soldier, administrator and speculator. 


War and the existing economic regime have not been 
discussed primarily on their own account. They are 
crucial cases of the relation existing between original 
impulse and acquired habit. They are so fraught with 
evil consequences that any one who is disposed can heap 
up criticisms without end. Nevertheless they persist. 
This persistence constitutes the case for the conserva- 
tive who argues that such institutions are rooted in an 
unalterable human nature. A truer psychology locates 
the difficulty elsewhere. It shows that the trouble lies 
in the inertness of established habit. No matter how 
accidental and irrational the circumstances of its 
origin, no matter how different the conditions which 
now exist to those under which the habit was formed, 
the latter persists until the environment obstinately 
rejects it. Habits once formed perpetuate themselves, 
by acting unremittingly upon the native stock of activ- 
ities. They stimulate, inhibit, intensify, weaken, select, 
concentrate and organize the latter into their own like- 
ness. They create out of the formless void of impulses 
a world made in their own image. Man is a creature of 
habit, not of reason nor yet of instinct. 

Recognition of the correct psychology locates the 
problem but does not guarantee its solution. Indeed, 
at first sight it seems to indicate that every attempt to 



solve the problem and secure fundamental reorganiza- 
tions is caught in a vicious circle. For the direction 
of native activity depends upon acquired habits, and 
yet acquired habits can be modified only by redirection 
of impulses. Existing institutions impose their stamp, 
their superscription, upon impulse and instinct. They 
embody the modifications the latter have undergone. 
How then can we get leverage for changing institu- 
tions? How shall impulse exercise that re-adjusting 
office which has been claimed for it ? Shall we not have 
to depend in the future as in the past upon upheaval and 
accident to dislocate customs so as to release impulses 
to serve as points of departure for new habits? 

The existing psychology of the industrial worker for 
example is slack, irresponsible, combining a maximum 
of mechanical routine with a maximum of explosive, 
unregulated impulsiveness. These things have been 
bred by the existing economic system. But they exist, 
and are formidable obstacles to social change. We 
cannot breed in men the desire to get something for 
as nearly nothing as possible and in the end not pay 
the price. We satisfy ourselves cheaply by preaching 
the charm of productivity and by blaming the inherent 
selfishness of human nature, and urging some great 
moral and religious revival. The evils point in reality 
to the necessity of a change in economic institutions, 
but meantime they offer serious obstacles to the 
change. At the same time, the existing economic sys- 
tem has enlisted in behalf of its own perpetuity the 
managerial and the technological abilities which must 

serve the cause of the laborer if he is to be emancipated. 
In the face of these difficulties other persons seek an 
equally cheap satisfaction in the thought of universal 
civil war and revolution. 

Is there any way out of the vicious circle? In the 
first place, there are possibilities resident in the educa- 
tion of the young which have never yet been taken 
advantage of. The idea of universal education is as 
yet hardly a century old, and it is still much more of 
an idea than a fact, when we take into account the 
early age at which it terminates for the mass. Also, 
thus far schooling has been largely utilized as a con- 
venient tool of the existing nationalistic and economic 
regimes. Hence it is easy to point out defects and 
perversions in every existing school system. It is easy 
for a critic to ridicule the religious devotion to educa- 
tion which has characterized for example the American 
republic. It is easy to represent it as zeal without 
knowledge, fanatical faith apart from understanding. 
And yet the cold fact of the situation is that the chief 
means of continuous, graded, economical improvement 
and social rectification lies in utilizing the opportuni- 
ties of educating the young to modify prevailing types 
of thought and desire. 

The young are not as yet as subject to the full im- 
pact of established customs. Their life of impulsive 
activity is vivid, flexible, experimenting, curious. 
Adults have their habits formed, fixed, at least com- 
paratively. They are the subjects, not to say victims, 
of an environment which they can directly change only 


by a maximum of effort and disturbance. They may 
not be able to perceive clearly the needed changes, or 
be willing to pay the price of effecting them. Yet they 
wish a different life for the generation to come. In 
order to realize that wish they may create a special 
environment whose main function is education. In 
order that education of the young be efficacious in in- 
ducing an improved society, it is not necessary for 
adults to have a formulated definite ideal of some better 
state. An educational enterprise conducted in this 
spirit would probably end merely in substituting one 
rigidity for another. What is necessary is that habits 
be formed which are more intelligent, more sensitively 
percipient, more informed with foresight, more aware 
of what they are about, more direct and sincere, more 
flexibly responsive than those now current. Then they 
will meet their own problems and propose their own 

Educative development of the young is not the only 
way in which the life of impulse may be employed to 
effect social ameliorations, though it is the least expen- 
sive and most orderly. No adult environment is all of 
one piece. The more complex a culture is, the more 
certain it is to include habits formed on differing, even 
conflicting patterns. Each custom may be rigid, unin- 
telligent in itself, and yet this rigidity may cause it to 
wear upon others. The resulting attrition may release 
impulse for new adventures. The present time is con- 
spicuously a time of such internal frictions and liber- 
ations. Social life seems chaotic, unorganized, rather 


than too fixedly regimented. Political and legal in- 
stitutions are now inconsistent with the habits that 
dominate friendly intercourse, science and art. Dif- 
ferent institutions foster antagonistic impulses and 
form contrary dispositions. 

If we had to wait upon exhortations and unembodied 
" ideals " to effect social alterations, we should indeed 
wait long. But the conflict of patterns involved in in- 
stitutions which are inharmonious with one another is 
already producing great changes. The significant 
point is not whether modifications shall continue to 
occur, but whether they shall be characterized chiefly 
by uneasiness, discontent and blind antagonistic strug- 
gles, or whether intelligent direction may modulate the 
harshness of conflict, and turn the elements of disin- 
tegration into a constructive synthesis. At all events, 
the social situation in " advanced " countries is such 
as to impart an air of absurdity to our insistence upon 
the rigidity of customs. There are plenty of persons 
to tell us that the real trouble lies in lack of fixity of 
habit and principle; in departure from immutable 
standards and structures constituted once for all. We 
are told that we are suffering from an excess of instinct, 
and from laxity of habit due to surrender to impulse 
as a law of life. The remedy is said to be to return 
from contemporary fluidity to the stable and spacious 
patterns of a classic antiquity that observed law and 
proportion: for somehow antiquity is always classic. 
When instability, uncertainty, erratic change are dif- 
fused throughout the situation, why dwell upon the 


evils of fixed habit and the need of release of impulse 
as an initiator of reorganizations? Why not rather 
condemn impulse and exalt habits of reverencing order 
and fixed truth? 

The question is natural, but the remedy suggested 
is futile. It is not easy to exaggerate the extent to 
which we now pass from one kind of nurture to 
another as we go from business to church, from science 
to the newspaper, from business to art, from compan- 
ionship to politics, from home to school. An individ- 
ual is now subjected to many conflicting schemes of 
education. Hence habits are divided against one an- 
other, personality is disrupted, the scheme of conduct 
is confused and disintegrated. But the remedy lies in 
the development of a new morale which can be attained 
only as released impulses are intelligently employed to 
form harmonious habits adapted to one another in a 
new situation. A laxity due to decadence of old habits 
cannot be corrected by exhortations to restore old 
habits in their former rigidity. Even though it were 
abstractly desirable it is impossible. And it is not de- 
sirable because the inflexibility of old habits is precisely 
the chief cause of their decay and disintegration. 
Plaintive lamentations at the prevalence of change and 
abstract appeals for restoration of senile authority are 
signs of personal feebleness, of inability to cope with 
change. It is a " defense reaction." 

We may sum up the discussion in a few generalized 
statements. In the first place, it is unscientific to try 
to restrict original activities to a definite number of 
sharply demarcated classes of instincts. And the prac- 
tical result of this attempt is injurious. To classify 
is, indeed, as useful as it is natural. The indefinite 
multitude of particular and changing events is met by 
the mind with acts of defining, inventorying and listing, 
reducing to common heads and tying up in bunches. 
But these acts like other intelligent acts are performed 
for a purpose, and the accomplishment of purpose is 
their only justification. Speaking generally, the pur- 
pose is to facilitate our dealings with unique individ- 
uals and changing events. When we assume that our 
clefts and bunches represent fixed separations and col- 
lections in rerum natura, we obstruct rather than aid 
our transactions with things. We are guilty of a 
presumption which nature promptly punishes. We are 
rendered incompetent to deal effectively with the deli- 
cacies and novelties of nature and life. Our thought is 
hard where facts are mobile ; bunched and chunky where 
events are fluid, dissolving. 

The tendency to forget the office of distinctions and 
classifications, and to take them as marking things in 
themselves, is the current fallacy of scientific spe- 



cialism. It is one of the conspicuous traits of high- 
browism, the essence of false abstractionism. This at- 
titude which once flourished in physical science now 
governs theorizing about human nature. Man has been 
resolved into a definite collection of primary instincts 
which may be numbered, catalogued and exhaustively 
described one by one. Theorists differ only or chiefly 
as to their number and ranking. Some say one, self- 
love ; some two, egoism and altruism ; some three, greed, 
fear and glory; while today writers of a more em- 
pirical turn run the number up to fifty and sixty. But 
in fact there are as many specific reactions to differ- 
ing stimulating conditions as there is time for, and 
our lists are only classifications for a purpose. 

One of the great evils of this artificial simplification 
is its influence upon social science. Complicated prov- 
inces of life have been assigned to the jurisdiction of 
some special instinct or group of instincts, which has 
reigned despotically with the usual consequences of 
despotism. Politics has replaced religion as the set of 
phenomena based upon fear; or after having been the 
fruit of a special Aristotelian political faculty, has be- 
come the necessary condition of restraining man's self- 
seeking impulse. All sociological facts are disposed of 
in a few fat volumes as products of imitation and in- 
vention, or of cooperation and conflict. Ethics rest 
upon sympathy, pity, benevolence. Economics is the 
science of phenomena due to one love and one aversion 
gain and labor. It is surprising that men can engage 
in these enterprises without being reminded of their ex- 


act similarity to natural science before scientific method 
was discovered in the seventeenth century. Just now 
another simplification is current. All instincts go back 
to the sexual, so that cherchez la femme (under multi- 
tudinous symbolic disguises) is the last word of science 
with respect to the analysis of conduct. 

Some sophisticated simplifications which once had 
great influence are now chiefly matters of historic mo- 
ment. Even so they are instructive. They show how 
social conditions put a heavy load on certain tendencies, 
so that in the end an acquired disposition is treated 
as if it were an original, and almost the only original 
activity. Consider, for example, the burden of causal 
power placed by Hobbes upon the reaction of fear. To 
a man living with reasonable security and comfort to- 
day, Hobbes' pervasive consciousness of fear seems like 
the idiosyncrasy of an abnormally timid temperament. 
But a survey of the conditions of his own time, of the 
disorders which bred general distrust and antagonism, 
which led to brutal swashbuckling and disintegrating 
intrigue, puts the matter on a different footing. The 
social situation conduced to fearfulness. As an account 
of the psychology of the natural man his theory is un- 
sound. As a report of contemporary social condi- 
tions there is much to be said for it. 

Something of the same sort may be said regarding 
the emphasis of eighteenth century moralists upon 
benevolence as the inclusive moral spring to action, an 
emphasis represented in the nineteenth century by 
Comte's exaltation of altruism. The load was excessive. 


But it testifies to the growth of a new philanthropic 
spirit. With the breaking down of feudal barriers and 
a consequent mingling of persons previously divided, 
a sense of responsibility for the happiness of others, 
for the mitigation of misery, grew up. Conditions were 
not ripe for its translation into political action. Hence 
the importance attached to the private disposition of 
voluntary benevolence. 

If we venture into more ancient history, Plato's 
threefold division of the human soul into a rational 
element, a spirited active one, and an appetitive one, 
aiming at increase or gain, is immensely illuminating. 
As is well known, Plato said that society is the human 
soul writ large. In society he found three classes : the 
philosophic and scientific, the soldier-citizenry, and the 
traders and artisans. Hence the generalization as to 
the three dominating forces in human nature. Read 
the other way around, we perceive that trade in his days 
appealed especially to concupiscence, citizenship to a 
generous elan of self-forgetting loyalty, and scientific 
study to a disinterested love of wisdom that seemed to 
be monopolized by a small isolated group. The dis- 
tinctions were not in truth projected from the breast 
of the natural individual into society, but they were 
cultivated in classes of individuals by force of social 
custom and expectation. 

Now the prestige that once attached to the " in- 
stinct " of self-love has not wholly vanished. The case 
is still worth examination. In its " scientific " form, 
start was taken from an alleged instinct of self- 


preservation, characteristic of man as well as of other 
animals. From this seemingly innocuous assumption, a 
mythological psychology burgeoned. Animals, including 
man, certainly perform many acts whose consequence is 
to protect and preserve life. If their acts did not upon 
the whole have this tendency, neither the individual or 
the species would long endure. The acts that spring 
from life also in the main conserve life. Such is the un- 
doubted fact. What does the statement amount to? 
Simply the truism that life is life, that life is a con- 
tinuing activity as long as it is life at all. But the 
self-love school converted the fact that life tends to 
maintain life into a separate and special force which 
somehow lies back of life and accounts for its various 
acts. An animal exhibits in its life-activity a multitude 
of acts of breathing, digesting, secreting, excreting, at- 
tack, defense, search for food, etc., a multitude of spe- 
cific responses to specific stimulations of the environ- 
ment. But mythology comes in and attributes them 
all to a nisus for self-preservation. Thence it is but a 
step to the idea that all conscious acts are prompted 
by self-love. This premiss is then elaborated in in- 
genious schemes, often amusing when animated by a 
cynical knowledge of the " world," tedious when of a 
would-be logical nature, to prove that every act of man 
including his apparent generosities is a variation 
played on the theme of self-interest. 

The fallacy is obvious. Because an animal cannot 
live except as it is alive, except that is as its acts have 
the result of sustaining life, it is concluded that all its 


acts are instigated by an impulse to self-preservation. 
Since all acts affect the well-being of their agent in one 
way or another, and since when a person becomes re- 
flective he prefers consequences in the way of weal to 
those of woe, therefore all his acts are due to self-love. 
In actual substance, one statement says that life is life ; 
and the other says that a self is a self. One says that 
special acts are acts of a living creature and the other 
that they are acts of a self. In the biological statement 
the concrete diversity between the acts of say a clam 
and of a dog are covered up by pointing out that the 
acts of each tend to self-preservation, ignoring the 
somewhat important fact that in one case it is the life 
of a clam and in the other the life of a dog which is 
continued. In morals, the concrete differences between 
a Jesus, a Peter, a John and a Judas are covered up 
by the wise remark that after all they are all selves and 
all act as selves. In every case, a result or " end " is 
treated as an actuating cause. 

The fallacy consists in transforming the (truistic) 
fact of acting as a self into the fiction of acting always 
for self. Every act, truistically again, tends to a cer- 
tain fulfilment or satisfaction of some habit which is 
an undoubted element in the structure of character. 
Each satisfaction is qualitatively what it is because of 
the disposition fulfilled in the object attained, treachery 
or loyalty, mercy or cruelty. But theory comes in and 
blankets the tremendous diversity in the quality of the 
satisfactions which are experienced by pointing out that 
they are all satisfactions. The harm done is then com- 


pleted by transforming this artificial unity of result 
into an original love of satisfaction as the force that 
generates all acts alike. Because a Nero and a Peabody 
both get satisfaction in acting as they do it is inferred 
that the satisfaction of each is the same in quality, and 
that both were actuated by love of the same objective. 
In reality the more we concretely dwell upon the com- 
mon fact of fulfilment, the more we realize the differ- 
ence in the kinds of selves fulfilled. In pointing out 
that both the north and the south poles are poles we 
do not abolish the difference of north from south; we 
accentuate it. 

The explanation of the fallacy is however too easy 
to be convincing. There must have been some material, 
empirical reason why intelligent men were so easily en- 
trapped by a fairly obvious fallacy. That material 
error was a belief in the fixity and simplicity of the 
self, a belief which had been fostered by a school far 
removed from the one in question, the theologians with 
their dogma of the unity and ready-made completeness 
of the soul. We arrive at true conceptions of motiva- 
tion and interest only by the recognition that selfhood 
(except as it has encased itself in a shell of routine) 
is in process of making, and that any self is capable of 
including within itself a number of inconsistent selves, 
of unharmonized dispositions. Even a Nero may be 
capable upon occasion of acts of kindness. It is even 
conceivable that under certain circumstances he may be 
appalled by the consequences of cruelty, and turn to the 
fostering of kindlier impulses. A sympathetic person is 


not immune to harsh arrogances, and he may find him- 
self involved in so much trouble as a consequence of a 
kindly act, that he allows his generous impulses to 
shrivel and henceforth governs his conduct by the dic- 
tates of the strictest worldly prudence. Inconsistencies 
and shiftings in character are the commonest things in 
experience. Only the hold of a traditional conception 
of the singleness and simplicity of soul and self blinds 
us to perceiving what they mean: the relative fluidity 
and diversity of the constituents of selfhood. There 
is no one ready-made self behind activities. There are 
complex, unstable, opposing attitudes, habits, impulses 
which gradually come to terms with one another, and 
assume a certain consistency of configuration, even 
though only by means of a distribution of inconsis- 
tencies which keeps them in water-tight compartments, 
giving them separate turns or tricks in action. 

Many good words get spoiled when the word self is 
prefixed to them: Words like pity, confidence, sacrifice, 
control, love. The reason is not far to seek. The word 
self infects them with a fixed introversion and isolation. 
It implies that the act of love or trust or control is 
turned back upon a self which already is in full exist- 
ence and in whose behalf the act operates. Pity fulfils 
and creates a self when it is directed outward, opening 
the mind to new contacts and receptions. Pity for self 
withdraws the mind back into itself, rendering its sub- 
ject unable to learn from the buffetings of fortune. 
Sacrifice may enlarge a self by bringing about surren- 
der of acquired possessions to requirements of new 


growth. Self-sacrifice means a self-maiming which asks 
for compensatory pay in some later possession or in- 
dulgence. Confidence as an outgoing act is directness 
and courage in meeting the facts of life, trusting them 
to bring instruction and support to a developing self. 
Confidence which terminates in the self means a smug 
complacency that renders a person obtuse to instruc- 
tion by events. Control means a command of resources 
that enlarges the self; self-control denotes a self which 
is contracting, concentrating itself upon its own 
achievements, hugging them tight, and thereby estop- 
ping the growth that comes when the self is generously 
released; a self-conscious moral athleticism that ends 
in a disproportionate enlargement of some organ. 

What makes the difference in each of these cases is 
the difference between a self taken as something already 
made and a self still making through action. In the 
former case, action has to contribute profit or secur- 
ity or consolation to a self. In the latter, impulsive 
action becomes an adventure in discovery of a self 
which is possible but as yet unrealized, an experiment in 
creating a self which shall be more inclusive than the 
one which exists. The idea that only those impulses 
have moral validity which aim at the welfare of others, 
or are altruistic, is almost as one-sided a doctrine as 
the dogma of self-love. Yet altruism has one marked 
superiority; it at least suggests a generosity of out- 
going action, a liberation of power as against the close, 
pent in, protected atmosphere of a ready-made ego. 

The reduction of all impulses to forms of self-lova 


is worth investigation because it gives an opportunity 
to say something about self as an ongoing process. The 
doctrine itself is faded, its advocates are belated. The 
notion is too tame to appeal to a generation that has 
experienced romanticism and has been intoxicated by 
imbibing from the streams of power released by the 
industrial revolution. The fashionable unification of 
today goes by the name of the will to power. 

In the beginning, this is hardly more than a name for 
a quality of all activity. Every fulfilled activity ter- 
minates in added control of conditions, in an art of 
administering objects. Execution, satisfaction, reali- 
zation, fulfilment are all names for the fact that an 
activity implies an accomplishment which is possible 
only by subduing circumstance to serve as an accom- 
plice of achievement. Each impulse or habit is thus 
a will to its (mm power. To say this is to clothe a 
truism in a figure. It says that anger or fear or love 
or hate is successful when it effects some change out- 
side the organism which measures its force and regis- 
ters its efficiency. The achieved outcome marks the 
difference between action and a cooped-up sentiment 
which is expended upon itself. The eye hungers for 
light, the ear for sound, the hand for surfaces, the arm 
for things to reach, throw and lift, the leg for distance, 
anger for an enemy to destroy, curiosity for something 
to shiver and cower before, love for a mate. Each im- 
pulse is a demand for an object which will enable it to 
function. Denied an object in reality it tends to create 
one in fancy, as pathology shows. 


So far we have no generalized will to power, but only 
the inherent pressure of every activity for an adequate 
manifestation. It is not so much a demand for power 
as search for an opportunity to use a power already 
existing. If opportunities corresponded to the need, 
a desire -for power would hardly arise : power would be 
used and satisfaction would accrue. But impulse is 
balked. If conditions are right for an educative 
growth, the snubbed impulse will be " sublimated." 
That is, it will become a contributory factor in some 
more inclusive and complex activity, in which it 
is reduced to a subordinate yet effectual place. Some- 
times however frustration dams activity up, and inten- 
sifies it. A longing for satisfaction at any cost is en- 
gendered. And when social conditions are such that 
the path of least resistance lies through subjugation 
of the energies of others, the will to power bursts into 

This explains why we attribute a will to power to 
others but not to ourselves, except in the complimen- 
tary sense that being strong we naturally wish to exer- 
cise our strength. Otherwise for ourselves we only 
want what we want when we want it, not being over- 
scrupulous about the means we take to get it. This 
psychology is naive but it is truer to facts than the 
supposition that there exists by itself as a separate and 
original thing a will to power. For it indicates that 
the real fact is some existing power which demands out- 
let, and which becomes self-conscious only when it is 
too weak to overcome obstacles. Conventionally the 


will to power is imputed only to a comparatively small 
number of ambitious and ruthless men. They are prob- 
ably upon the whole quite unconscious of any such will, 
being mastered by specific intense impulses that find 
their realization most readily by bending others to serve 
as tools of their aims. Self-conscious will to power 
is found mainly in those who have a so-called inferiority 
complex, and who would compensate for a sense of per- 
sonal disadvantage (acquired early in childhood) by 
making a striking impression upon others, in the reflex 
of which they feel their strength appreciated. The 
literateur who has to take his action out in imagina- 
tion is much more likely to evince a will to power than 
a Napoleon who sees definite objects with extraordinary 
clearness and who makes directly for them. Explosive 
irritations, naggings, the obstinacy of weak persons, 
dreams of grandeur, the violence of those usually sub- 
missive are the ordinary marks of a will to power. 

Discussion of the false simplification involved in this 
doctrine suggests another unduly fixed and limited 
classification. Critics of the existing economic regime 
have divided instincts into the creative and the acquis- 
itive, and have condemned the present order because it 
embodies the latter at the expense of the former. The 
division is convenient, yet mistaken. Convenient be- 
cause it sums up certain facts of the present system, 
mistaken because it takes social products for psycho- 
logical originals. Speaking roughly we may say that 
native activity is both creative and acquisitive, creative 
as a process, acquisitive in that it terminates as a rule 


in some tangible product which brings the process to 
consciousness of itself. 

Activity is creative in so far as it moves to its own 
enrichment as activity, that is, bringing along with it- 
self a release of further activities. Scientific inquiry, 
artistic production, social companionship possess this 
trait to a marked degree ; some amount of it is a normal 
accompaniment of all successfully coordinated action. 
While from the standpoint of what precedes it is a 
fulfilment, it is a liberative expansion with respect to 
what comes after. There is here no antagonism between 
creative expression and the production of results which 
endure and which give a sense of accomplishment. 
Architecture at its best, for example, would probably 
appear to most persons to be more creative, not less, 
than dancing at its best. There is nothing in industrial 
production which of necessity excludes creative activ- 
ity. The fact that it terminates in tangible utilities no 
more lowers its status than the uses of a bridge exclude 
creative art from a share in its design and construction. 
What requires explanation is why process is so definitely 
subservient to product in so much of modern indus- 
try: that is, why later use rather than present 
achieving is the emphatic thing. The answer seems to 
be twofold. 

An increasingly large portion of economic work is 
done with machines. As a rule, these machines are not 
under the personal control of those who operate them. 
The machines are operated for ends which the worker 
has no share in forming and in which as such, or apart 


from his wage, he has no interest. He neither under- 
stands the machines nor cares for their purpose. He is 
engaged in an activity in which means are cut off from 
ends, instruments from what they achieve. Highly 
mechanized activity tends as Emerson said to turn men 
into spiders and needles. But if men understand what 
they are about, if they see the whole process of which 
their special work is a necessary part, and if they have 
concern, care, for the whole, then the mechanizing ef- 
fect is counteracted. But when a man is only the tender 
of a machine, he can have no insight and no affection ; 
creative activity is out of the question. 

What remains to the workman is however not so much 
acquisitive desires as love of security and a wish for 
a good time. An excessive premium on security springs 
from the precarious conditions of the workman ; desire 
for a good time, so far as it needs any explanation, 
from demand for relief from drudgery, due to the ab- 
sence of culturing factors in the work done. Instead of 
acquisition being a primary end, the net effect of the 
process is rather to destroy sober care for materials 
and products ; to induce careless wastefulness, so far 
as that can be indulged in without lessening the weekly 
wage. From the standpoint of orthodox economic 
theory, the most surprising thing about modern indus- 
try is the small number of persons who have any ef- 
fective interest in acquisition of wealth. This disre- 
gard for acquisition makes it easier for a few who do 
want to have things their own way, and who monopolize 
what is amassed. If an acquisitive impulse were only 


more evenly developed, more of a real fact, than it is, it 
it quite possible that things would be better than they 

Even with respect to men who succeed in accumulat- 
ing wealth it is a mistake to suppose that acquisitive- 
ness plays with most of them a large role, beyond get- 
ting control of the tools of the game. Acquisition is 
necessary as an outcome, but it arises not from love of 
accumulation but from the fact that without a large 
stock of possessions one cannot engage effectively in 
modern business. It is an incident of love of power, of 
desire to impress fellows, to obtain prestige, to secure 
influence, to manifest ability, to " succeed " in short 
under the conditions of the given regime. And if we 
are to shove a mythological psychology of instincts be- 
hind modern economics, we should do better to invent 
instincts for security, a good time, power and success 
than to rely upon an acquisitive instinct. We should 
have also to give much weight to a peculiar sporting 
instinct. Not acquiring dollars, but chasing them, 
hunting them is the important thing. Acquisition has 
its part in the big game, for even the most devoted 
sportsman prefers, other things being equal, to bring 
home the fox's brush. A tangible result is the mark to 
one's self and to others of success in sport. 

Instead of dividing sharply an acquisitive impulse 
manifested in business and a creative instinct displayed 
in science, art and social fellowship, we should rather 
first inquire why it is that so much of creative activity 
is in our day diverted into business, and then ask why 


it is that opportunity for exercise of the creative ca- 
pacity in business is now restricted to such a small 
class, those who have to do with banking, finding a 
market, and manipulating investments ; and finally ask 
why creative activity is perverted into an over-special- 
ized and frequently inhumane operation. For after all 
it is not the bare fact of creation but its quality which 

That captains of industry are creative artists of a 
sort, and that industry absorbs an undue share of the 
creative activity of the present time cannot be denied. 
To impute to the leaders of industry and commerce 
simply an acquisitive motive is not merely to lack in- 
sight into their conduct, but it is to lose the clew to 
bettering conditions. For a more proportionate dis- 
tribution of creative power between business and other 
occupations, and a more humane, wider use of it in 
business depend upon grasping aright the forces actu- 
ally at work. Industrial leaders combine interest in 
making far-reaching plans, large syntheses of condi- 
tions based upon study, mastery of refined and complex 
technical skill, control over natural forces and events, 
with love of adventure, excitement and mastery of fel- 
low-men. When these interests are reinforced with 
actual command of all the means of luxury, of display 
and procuring admiration from the less fortunate, it is 
not surprising that creative force is drafted largely 
into business channels, and that competition for an op- 
portunity to display power becomes brutal. 

The strategic question, as was said, is to understand 


how and why political, legal, scientific and educational 
conditions of society for the last centuries have stim- 
ulated and nourished such a one-sided development of 
creative activities. To approach the problem from 
this point of view is much more hopeful, though infin- 
itely more complex intellectually, than the approach 
which sets out with a fixed dualism between acquisitive 
and creative impulses. The latter assumes a complete 
split of higher and lower in the original constitution of 
man. Were this the case, there would be no organic 
remedy. The sole appeal would be to sentimental ex- 
hortation to men to wean themselves from devotion to 
the things which are beloved by their lower and material 
nature. And if the appeal were moderately successful 
the social result would be a fixed class division. There 
would remain a lower class, superciliously looked down 
upon by the higher, consisting of those in whom the 
acquisitive instinct remains stronger and who do the 
necessary work of life, while the higher " creative " 
class devotes itself to social intercourse, science and 

Since the underlying psychology is wrong, the prob- 
lem and its solution assumes in fact a radically differ- 
ent form. There are an indefinite number of original 
or instinctive activities, which are organized into inter- 
ests and dispositions according to the situations to 
which they respond. To increase the creative phase 
and the humane quality of these activities is an affair 
of modifying the social conditions which stimulate, se- 
lect, intensify, weaken and coordinate native activities. 


The first step in dealing with it is to increase our de- 
tailed scientific knowledge. We need to know exactly 
the selective and directive force of each social situation ; 
exactly how each tendency is promoted and retarded. 
Command of the physical environment on a large and 
deliberate scale did not begin until belief in gross forces 
and entities was abandoned. Control of physical en- 
ergies is due to inquiry which establishes specific cor- 
relations between minute elements. It will not be other- 
wise with social control and adjustment. Having the 
knowledge we may set hopefully at work upon a course 
of social invention and experimental engineering. A 
study of the educative effect, the influence upon habit, 
of each definite form of human intercourse, is pre- 
requisite to effective reform. 


In spite of what has been said, it will be asserted that 
there are definite, independent, original instincts which 
manifest themselves in specific acts in a one-to-one 
correspondence. Fear, it will be said, is a reality, and 
so is anger, and rivalry, and love of mastery of others, 
and self-abasement, maternal love, sexual desire, gre- 
gariousness and envy, and each has its own appropriate 
deed as a result. Of course they are realities. So are 
suction, rusting of metals, thunder and lightning and 
lighter-than-air flying machines. But science and in- 
vention did not get on as long as men indulged in the 
notion of special forces to account for such phenomena. 
Men tried that road, and it only led them into learned 
ignorance. They spoke of nature's abhorrence of a 
vacuum; of a force of combustion; of intrinsic nisus 
toward this and that ; of heaviness and levity as forces. 
It turned out that these " forces " were only the phe- 
nomena over again, translated from a specific and con- 
crete form (in which they were at least actual) into a 
generalized form in which they were verbal. They con- 
verted a problem into a solution which afforded a sim- 
ulated satisfaction. 

Advance in insight and control came only when the 
mind turned squarely around. After it had dawned 
upon inquirers that their alleged causal forces were only 



names which condensed into a duplicate form a variety 
of complex occurrences, they set about breaking up 
phenomena into minute detail and searching for corre- 
lations, that is, for elements in other gross phenomena 
which also varied. Correspondence of variations of 
elements took the place of large and imposing forces. 
The psychology of behavior is only beginning to un- 
dergo similar treatment. It is probable that the vogue 
of sensation-psychology was due to the fact that it 
seemed to promise a similar detailed treatment of per- 
sonal phenomena. But as yet we tend to regard sex, 
hunger, fear, and even much more complex active in- 
terests as if they were lump forces, like the combustion 
or gravity of old-fashioned physical science. 

It is not hard to see how the notion of a single and 
separate tendency grew up in the case of simpler acts 
like hunger and sex. The paths of motor outlet or dis- 
charge are comparatively few and are fairly well de- 
fined. Specific bodily organs are conspicuously in- 
volved. Hence there is suggested the notion of a cor- 
respondingly separate psychic force or impulse. There 
are two fallacies in this assumption. The first con- 
sists in ignoring the fact that no activity (even one 
that is limited by routine habit) is confined to the 
channel which is most flagrantly involved in its execu- 
tion. The whole organism is concerned in every act to 
some extent and in some fashion, internal organs as 
well as muscular, those of circulation, secretion, etc. 
Since the total state of the organism is never exactly 
twice alike, in so far the phenomena of hunger and sex 


are never twice the same in fact. The difference may 
be negligible for some purposes, and yet give the key 
for the purposes of a psychological analysis which shall 
terminate in a correct judgment of value. Even 
physiologically the context of organic changes accom- 
panying an act of hunger or sex makes the difference 
between a normal and a morbid phenomenon. 

In the second place, the environment in which the act 
takes place is never twice alike. Even when the overt 
organic discharge is substantially the same, the acts 
impinge upon a different environment and thus have 
different consequences. It is impossible to regard 
these differences of objective result as indifferent to 
the quality of the acts. They are immediately 
sensed if not clearly perceived; and they are the 
only components of the meaning of the act. When 
feelings, dwelling antecedently in the soul, were sup- 
posed to be the causes of acts, it was natural to sup- 
pose that each psychic element had its own inherent 
quality which might be directly read off by introspec- 
tion. But when we surrender this notion, it becomes 
evident that the only way of telling what an organic 
act is like is by the sensed or perceptible changes which 
it occasions. Some of these will be intra-organic, and 
(as just indicated) they will vary with every act. 
Others will be external to the organism, and these con- 
sequences are more important than the intra-organic 
ones for determining the quality of the act. For they 
are consequences in which others are concerned and 
which evoke reactions of favor and disfavor as well as 


cooperative and resisting activities of a more indirect 

Most so-called self-deception is due to employing 
immediate organic states as criteria of the value of 
an act. To say that it feels good or yields direct sat- 
isfaction is to say that it gives rise to a comfortable 
internal state. The judgment based upon this experi- 
ence may be entirely different from the judgment passed 
by others upon the basis of its objective or social con- 
sequences. As a matter of even the most rudimentary 
precaution, therefore, every person learns to recognize 
to some extent the quality of an act on the basis of its 
consequences in the acts of others. But even without 
this judgment, the exterior changes produced by an act 
are immediately sensed, and being associated with the 
act become a part of its quality. Even a young child 
sees the smash of things occasionally by his anger, and 
the smash may compete with his satisfied feeling of dis- 
charged energy as an index of value. 

A child gives way to what, grossly speaking, we call 
anger. Its felt or appreciated quality depends in the 
first place upon the condition of his organism at the 
time, and this is never twice alike. In the second place, 
the act is at once modified by the environment upon 
which it impinges so that different consequences are 
immediately reflected back to the doer. In one case, 
anger is directed say at older and stronger playmates 
who immediately avenge themselves upon the offender, 
perhaps cruelly. In another case, it takes effect upon 
weaker and impotent children, and the reflected ap- 


predated consequence is one of achievement, victory, 
power and a knowledge of the means of having one's own 
way. The notion that anger still remains a single 
force is a lazy mythology. Even in the cases of hunger 
and sex, where the channels of action are fairly demar- 
cated by antecedent conditions (or "nature"), the 
actual content and feel of hunger and sex, are indefi- 
nitely varied according to their social contexts. Only 
when a man is starving, is hunger an unqualified nat- 
ural impulse; as it approaches this limit, it tends to 
lose, moreover, its psychological distinctiveness and to 
become a raven of the entire organism. 

The treatment of sex by psycho-analysts is most in- 
structive, for it flagrantly exhibits both the conse- 
quences of artificial simplification and the transforma- 
tion of social results into psychic causes. Writers, 
usually male, hold forth on the psychology of woman, 
as if they were dealing with a Platonic universal entity, 
although they habitually treat men as individuals, vary- 
ing with structure and environment. They treat phe- 
nomena which are peculiarly symptoms of the civiliza- 
tion of the West at the present time as if they were 
the necessary effects of fixed native impulses of human 
nature. Romantic love as it exists today, with all the 
varying perturbations it occasions, is as definitely a 
sign of specific historic conditions as are big battle 
ships with turbines, internal-combustion engines, and 
electrically driven machines. It would be as sensible 
to treat the latter as effects of a single psychic cause 
as to attribute the phenomena of disturbance and con- 


flict which accompany present sexual relations as mani- 
festations of an original single psychic force or Libido. 
Upon this point at least a Marxian simplification is 
nearer the truth than that of Jung. 

Again it is customary to suppose that there is 
a single instinct of fear, or at most a few well-defined 
sub-species of it. In reality, when one is afraid the 
whole being reacts, and this entire responding organism 
is never twice the same. In fact, also, every reaction 
takes place in a different environment, and its meaning 
is never twice alike, since the difference in environment 
makes a difference in consequences. It is only myth- 
ology which sets up a single, identical psychic force 
which " causes " all the reactions of fear, a force be- 
ginning and ending in itself. It is true enough that in 
all cases we are able to identify certain more or less 
separable characteristic acts muscular contractions, 
withdrawals, evasions, concealments. But in the latter 
words we have already brought in an environment. Such 
terms as withdrawal and concealment have no meaning 
except as attitudes toward objects. There is no such 
thing as an environment in general; there are specific 
changing objects and events. Hence the kind of eva- 
sion or running away or shrinking up which takes place 
is directly correlated with specific surrounding condi- 
tions. There is no one fear having diverse manifesta- 
tions ; there are as many qualitatively different fears as 
there are objects responded to and different conse- 
quences sensed and observed. 

Fear of the dark is different from fear of publicity, 


fear of the dentist from fear of ghosts, fear of con- 
spicuous success from fear of humiliation, fear of a 
bat from fear of a bear. Cowardice, embarrassment, 
caution and reverence may all be regarded as forms of 
fear. They all have certain physical organic acts in 
common those of organic shrinkage, gestures of hesi- 
tation and retreat. But each is qualitatively unique. 
Each is what it is in virtue of its total interactions or 
correlations with other acts and with the environing 
medium, with consequences. High explosives and the 
aeroplane have brought into being something new in 
conduct. There is no error in calling it fear. But 
there is error, even from a limited clinical standpoint, 
in permitting the classifying name to blot from view 
the difference between fear of bombs dropped from the 
sky and the fears which previously existed. The new 
fear is just as much and just as little original and 
native as a child's fear of a stranger. 

For any activity is original when it first occurs. As 
conditions are continually changing, new and primitive 
activities are continually occurring. The traditional 
psychology of instincts obscures recognition of this 
fact. It sets up a hard-and-fast preordained class 
under which specific acts are subsumed, so that their 
own quality and originality are lost from view. This is 
why the novelist and dramatist are so much more illumi- 
nating as well as more interesting commentators on 
conduct than the schematizing psychologist. The 
artist makes perceptible individual responses and thus 
displays a new phase of human nature evoked in new 


situations. In putting the case visibly and dramati- 
cally he reveals vital actualities. The scientific system- 
atizer treats each act as merely another sample of some 
old principle, or as a mechanical combination of ele- 
ments drawn from a ready-made inventory. 

When we recognize the diversity of native activities 
and the varied ways in which they are modified through 
interactions with one another in response to different 
conditions, we are able to understand moral phenomena 
otherwise baffling. In the career of any impulse activ- 
ity there are speaking generally three possibilities. It 
may find a surging, explosive discharge blind, unin- 
telligent. It may be sublimated that is, become a fac- 
tor coordinated intelligently with others in a contin- 
uing course of action. Thus a gust of anger may, be- 
cause of its dynamic incorporation into disposition, 
be converted into an abiding conviction of social in- 
justice to be remedied, and furnish the dynamic to 
carry the conviction into execution. Or an excitation 
of sexual attraction may reappear in art or in tranquil 
domestic attachments and services. Such an outcome 
represents the normal or desirable functioning of im- 
pulse; in which, to use our previous language, the im- 
pulse operates as a pivot, or reorganization of habit. 
Or again a released impulsive activity may be neither 
immediately expressed in isolated spasmodic action, nor 
indirectly employed in an enduring interest. It may 
be " suppressed." 

Suppression is not annihilation. " Psychic " energy 
is no more capable of being abolished than the forms 


we recognize as physical. If it is neither exploded nor 
converted, it is turned inwards, to lead a surreptitious, 
subterranean life. An isolated or spasmodic manifes- 
tation is a sign of immaturity, crudity, savagery; a 
suppressed activity is the cause of all kinds of intel- 
lectual and moral pathology. One form of the result- 
ing pathology constitutes " reaction " in the sense in 
which the historian speaks of reactions. A conven- 
tionally familiar instance is Stuart license after Puri- 
tan restraint. A striking modern instance is the orgy 
of extravagance following upon the enforced economies 
and hardships of war, the moral let-down after its 
highstrung exalted idealisms, the deliberate careless- 
ness after an attention too intense and too narrow. 
Outward manifestation of many normal activities had 
been suppressed. But activities were not suppressed. 
They were merely dammed up awaiting their chance. 

Now such " reactions " are simultaneous as well as 
successive. Resort to artificial stimulation, to alcoholic 
excess, sexual debauchery, opium and narcotics are ex- 
amples. Impulses and interests that are not manifested 
in the regular course of serviceable activity or in rec- 
reation demand and secure a special manifestation. 
And it is interesting to note that there are two oppo- 
site forms. Some phenomena are characteristic of per- 
sons engaged in a routine monotonous life of toil at- 
tended with fatigue and hardship. And others are 
found in persons who are intellectual and executive, 
men whose activities are anything but monotonous, but 
are narrowed through over-specialization. Such men 


think too much, that is, too much along a particular 
line. They carry too heavy responsibilities ; that is, 
their offices of service are not adequately shared with 
others. They seek relief by escape into a more sociable 
and easy-going 1 world. The imperative demand for 
companionship not satisfied in ordinary activity is met 
by convivial indulgence. The other class has recourse 
to excess because its members have in ordinary occu- 
pations next to no opportunity for imagination. They 
make a foray into a more highly colored world as a 
substitute for a normal exercise of invention, planning 
and judgment. Having no regular responsibilities, 
they seek to recover an illusion of potency and of social 
recognition by an artificial exaltation of their sub- 
merged and humiliated selves. 

Hence the love of pleasure against which moralists 
issue so many warnings. Not that love of pleasures is 
in itself in any way demoralizing. Love of the pleas- 
ures of cheerfulness, of companionship is one of the 
steadying influences in conduct. But pleasure has 
often become identified with special thrills, excitations, 
ticklings of sense, stirrings of appetite for the express 
purpose of enjoying the immediate stimulation irre- 
spective of results. Such pleasures are signs of dissi- 
pation, dissoluteness, in the literal sense. An activity 
which is deprived of regular stimulation and normal 
function is piqued into isolated activity, and the result 
is division, disassociation. A life of routine and of 
over-specialization in non-routine lines seek occasions 
in which to arouse by abnormal means a feeling of sat- 


isf action without any accompanying objective fulfil- 
ment. Hence, as moralists have pointed out, the in- 
satiable character of such appetites. Activities are not 
really satisfied, that is fulfilled in objects. They con- 
tinue to seek for gratification in more intensified stim- 
ulations. Orgies of pleasure-seeking, varying from 
saturnalia to mild sprees, result. 

It does not follow however that the sole alternative 
is satisfaction by means of objectively serviceable ac- 
tion, that is by action which effects useful changes in 
the environment. There is an optimistic theory of 
nature according to which wherever there is natural 
law there is also natural harmony. Since man as 
well as the world is included in the scope of natural 
law, It is inferred that there is natural harmony be- 
tween human activities and surroundings, a harmony 
which is disturbed only when man indulges in " arti- 
ficial " departures from nature. According to this view, 
all man has to do is to keep his occupations in balance 
with the energies of the environment and he will be 
both happy and efficient. Rest, recuperation, relief can 
be found in a proper alternation of forms of useful 
work. Do the things which surroundings indicate need 
doing, and success, content, restoration of powers will 
take care of themselves. 

This benevolent view of nature falls in with a Puri- 
tanic devotion to work for its own sake and creates 
distrust of amusement, play and recreation. They are 
felt to be unnecessary, and worse, dangerous diversions 
from the path of useful action which is also the path of 


duty. Social conditions certainly impart to occupa- 
tions as they are now carried on an undue element of 
fatigue, strain and drudgery. Consequently useful oc- 
cupations which are so ordered socially as to engage 
thought, feed imagination and equalize the impact of 
stress would surely introduce a tranquillity and recrea- 
tion which are now lacking. But there is good reason 
to think that even in the best conditions there is enough 
, ^ maladjustment between the necessities of the environ- 
*/ ment and the activities^' natural ' 7 to man, so tjiat con- 

V straint and fatigue would always accompany activity, 
s and special forms of action be needed forms that are 
^r significantly called^ej-creation. 

*jv Hence the immense moral importance of play and of 

fine, or make-believe, art of activity, that is, whicliis 
make-believe from thestandpoint of the useful arts en- 
forced by the demands of the environment. When mor- 
alists have not regarded play and art with a censorious 
eye, they often have thought themselves carrying mat- 
ters to the pitch of generosity by conceding that they 
may be morally indifferent or innocent. But in truth 
they are moral necessities. They are required to take 
care of the margin that exists between the total stock 
of impulses that demand outlet and the amount ex- 
pended in regular action. They keep the balance which 
work cannot indefinitely maintain. They are required 
to introduce variety, flexibility and sensitiveness into 
disposition. Yet upon the whole the humanizing capa- 
bilities of sport in its varied forms, drama, fiction, 
music, poetry, newspapers have been neglected. They 


have been left in a kind of a moral no-man's territory. 
They have accomplished part of their function but they 
have not done what they are capable of doing. In 
many cases they have operated merely as reactions 
like those artificial and isolated stimulations already 

The suggestion that play and art have an indispen- 
sable moral function which should receive an attention 
now denied, calls out an immediate and vehement pro- 
test. We omit reference to that which proceeds from 
professional moralists to whom art, fun and sport are 
habitually under suspicion. For those interested in 
art, professional estheticians, will protest even more 
strenuously. They at once imagine that some kind of 
organized supervision if not censorship of play, drama 
and fiction is contemplated which will convert them into 
means of moral edification. If they do not think of 
Comstockian interference in the alleged interest of pub- 
lic morals, they at least think that what is intended is 
the elimination by persons of a Puritanic, unartistic 
temperament of everything not found sufficiently ear- 
nest and elevating, a fostering of art not for its own 
sake but as a means of doing good by something to 
somebody. There is a natural fear of injecting into 
art a spirit of earnest uplift, of surrendering art to the 

But something quite other than this is meant. Relief 
from continuous moral activity in the conventional 
sense of moral is itself a moral necessity. The service 
of art and play is to engage and release impulses in 


ways quite different from those in which they are occu- 
pied and employed in ordinary activities. Their func- 
tion is to forestall and remedy the usual exaggera- 
tions and deficits of activity, even of " moral " activity 
and to prevent a stereotyping of attention. To say 
that society is altogether too careless about the moral 
worth of art is not to say that carelessness about useful 
occupations is not a necessity for art. On the con- 
trary, whatever deprives play and art of their own 
careless rapture thereby deprives them of their moral 
function. Art then becomes poorer as art as a matter 
of course, but it also becomes in the same measure less 
effectual in its pertinent moral office. It tries to do 
what other things can do better, and it fails to do what 
nothing but itself can do for human nature, softening 
rigidities, relaxing strains, allaying bitterness, dispel- 
ling moroseness, and breaking down the narrowness con- 
sequent upon specialized tasks. 

Even if the matter be put in this negative way, the 
moral value of art cannot be depreciated. But there is 
a more positive function. Play and art add fresh and 
deeper meanings to the usual activities of life. In con- 
trast with a Philistine relegation of the arts to a trivial 
by-play from serious concerns, it is truer to say that 
most of the significance now found in serious occupa- 
tions originated in activities not immediately useful, 
and gradually found its way from them into objectively 
serviceable employments. For their spontaneity and 
liberation from external necessities permits to them an 
enhancement and vitality of meaning not possible in 


preoccupation with immediate needs. Later this mean- 
ing is transferred to useful activities and becomes a 
part of their ordinary working. In saying then that 
art and play have a moral office not adequately taken 
advantage of it is asserted that they are responsible 
to life, to the enriching and freeing of its meanings, 
not that they are responsible to a moral code, com- 
mandment or special task. 

To a coarse view and professed moral refinement is 
often given to taking coarse views there is something 
vulgar not only in recourse to abnormal artificial exi- 
tents and stimulations but also in interest in useless 
games and arts. Negatively the two things have fea- 
tures which are alike. They both spring from failure 
of regular occupations to engage the full scope of im- 
pulses and instincts in an elastically balanced way. 
They both evince a surplusage of imagination over 
fact; a demand in imaginative activity for an outlet 
which is denied in overt activity. They both aim at 
reducing the domination of the prosaic; both are pro- 
tests against the lowering of meanings attendant upon 
ordinary vocations. As a consequence no rule can be 
laid down for discriminating by direct inspection be- 
tween unwholesome stimulations and invaluable excur- 
sions into appreciative enhancements of life. Their 
difference lies in the way they work, the careers to 
which they commit us. 

Art releases energy and focuses and tranquilizes it. 
It releases energy in constructive forms. Castles in 
the air like art have their source in a turning of im- 


pulse away from useful production. Both are due to 
the failure in some part of man's constitution to secure 
fulfilment in ordinary ways. But in one case the con- 
version of direct energy into imagination is the starting 
point of an activity which shapes material ; fancy is fed 
upon a stuff of life which assumes under its influence a 
rejuvenated, composed and enhanced form. In the other 
case, fancy remains an end in itself. It becomes an in- 
dulging in fantasies which bring about withdrawal from 
all realities, while wishes impotent in action build a 
world which yields temporary excitement. Any imagi- 
nation is a sign that impulse is impeded and is groping 
for utterance. Sometimes the outcome is a refreshed 
useful habit ; sometimes it is an articulation in creative 
art; and sometimes it is a futile romancing which for 
some natures does what self-pity does for others. The 
amount of potential energy of reconstruction that is 
dissipated in unexpressed fantasy supplies us with a 
fair measure of the extent to which the current organi- 
zation of occupation balks and twists impulse, and, by 
the same sign, with a measure of the function of art 
which is not yet utilized. 

The development of mental pathologies to the point 
where they need clinical attention has of late enforced 
a widespread consciousness of some of the evils of sup- 
pression of impulse. The studies of psychiatrists have 
made clear that impulses driven into pockets distil 
poison and produce festering sores. An organization 
of impulse into a working habit forms an interest. A 
surreptitious furtive organization which does not artic- 


ulate in avowed expression forms a " complex." Cur- 
rent clinical psychology has undoubtedly overworked 
the influence of sexual impulse in this connection, refus- 
ing at the hands of some writers to recognize the opera- 
tion of any other modes of disturbance. There are 
explanations of this onesidedness. The intensity of the 
sexual instinct and its organic ramifications produce 
many of the cases that are so noticeable as* to demand 
the attention of physicians. And social taboos and the 
tradition of secrecy have put this impulse under greater 
strain than has been imposed upon others. If a society 
existed in which the existence of impulse toward food 
were socially disavowed until it was compelled to live 
an illicit, covert life, alienists would have plenty of 
cases of mental and moral disturbance to relate in con- 
nection with hunger. 

The significant thing is that the pathology arising 
from the sex instinct affords a striking case of a uni- 
versal principle. Every impulse is, as far as it goes, 
force, urgency. It must either be used in some func- 
tion, direct or sublimated, or be driven into a con- 
cealed, hidden activity. It has long been asserted on 
empirical grounds that expression and enslavement re- 
sult in corruption and perversion. We have at last 
discovered the reason for this fact. The wholesome 
and saving force of intellectual freedom, open confron- 
tation, publicity, now has the stamp of scientific sanc- 
tion. The evil of checking impulses is not that they 
are checked. Without inhibition there is no insti- 
gation of imagination, no redirection into more dis- 


criminated and comprehensive activities. The evil re- 
sides in a refusal of direct attention which forces the 
impulse into disguise and concealment, until it enacts 
its own unavowed uneasy private life subject to no 
inspection and no control. 

A rebellious disposition is also a form of romanti- 
cism. At least rebels set out as romantics, or, in pop- 
ular parlance, as idealists. There is no bitterness like 
that of conscious impotency, the sense of suffocatingly 
complete suppression. The world is hopeless to one 
without hope. The rage of total despair is a vain ef- 
fort at blind destructiveness. Partial suppression in- 
duces in some natures a picture of complete freedom, 
while it arouses a destructive protest against existing 
institutions as enemies that stand in the way of free- 
dom. Rebellion has at least one advantage over re- 
course to artificial stimulation and to subconscious 
nursings of festering sore spots. It engages in action 
and thereby comes in contact with realities. It con- 
tains the possibility of learning something. Yet learn- 
ing by this method is immensely expensive. The costs 
are incalculable. As Napoleon said, every revolution 
moves in a vicious circle. It begins and ends in excess. 

To view institutions as enemies of freedom, and all 
conventions as slaveries, is to deny the only means by 
which positive freedom in action can be secured. A 
general liberation of impulses may set things going 
when they have been stagnant, but if the released forces 
are on their way to anything they do not know the 
way nor where they are going. Indeed, they are bound 


to be mutually contradictory and hence destructive 
destructive not only of the habits they wish to destroy 
but of themselves, of their own efficacy. Convention 
and custom are necessary to carrying forward impulse 
to any happy conclusion. A romantic return to nature 
and a freedom sought within the individual without 
regard to the existing environment finds its terminus 
in chaos. Every belief to the contrary combines pes- 
simism regarding the actual with an even more opti- 
mistic faith in some natural harmony or other a faith 
which is a survival of some of the traditional meta- 
physics and theologies which professedly are to be 
swept away. Not convention but stupid and rigid con- 
vention is the foe. And, as we have noted, a convention 
can be reorganized and made mobile only by using some 
other custom for giving leverage to an impulse. 

Yet it is too easy to utter commonplaces about the 
superiority of constructive action to destructive. At 
all events the professed conservative and classicist of 
tradition seeks too cheap a victory over the rebel. For 
the rebel is not self-generated. In the beginning no 
one is a revolutionist simply for the fun of it, however 
it may be after the furor of destructive power geta 
under way. The rebel is the product of extreme fixa- 
tion and unintelligent immobilities. Life is perpetu- 
ated only by renewal. If conditions do not permit re- 
newal to take place continuously it will take place ex- 
plosively. The cost of revolutions must be charged up 
to those who have taken for their aim arrest of custom 
instead of its readjustment. The only ones who have 


the right to criticize " radicals " adopting for the 
moment that perversion of language which identifies the 
radical with the destructive rebel are those who put 
as much effort into reconstruction as the rebels are put- 
ting into destruction. The primary accusation against 
the revolutionary must be directed against those who 
having power refuse to use it for ameliorations. They 
are the ones who accumulate the wrath that sweeps 
away customs and institutions in an undiscriminating 
avalanche. Too often the man who should be criti- 
cizing institutions expends his energy in criticizing 
those who would re-form them. What he really objects 
to is any disturbance of his own vested securities, com- 
forts and privileged powers. 


We return to the original proposition. The position 
of impulse in conduct is intermediary. Morality is an 
endeavor to find for the manifestation of impulse in 
special situations an office of refreshment and renewal. 
The endeavor is not easy of accomplishment. It is 
easier to surrender the main and public channels of 
action and belief to the sluggishness of custom, and 
idealize tradition by emotional attachment to its ease, 
comforts and privileges instead of idealizing it in prac- 
tice by making it more equably balanced with pres- 
ent needs. Again, impulses not used for the work of 
rejuvenation and vital recovery are sidetracked to find 
their own lawless barbarities or their own sentimental 
refinements. Or they are perverted to pathological 
careers some of which have been mentioned. 

In the course of time custom becomes intolerable be- 
cause of what it suppresses and some accident of war 
or inner catastrophe releases impulses for unrestrained 
expression. At such times we have philosophies which 
identify progress with motion, blind spontaneity with 
freedom, and which under the name of the sacredness of 
individuality or a return to the norms of nature make 
impulse a law unto itself. The oscillation between im- 
pulse arrested and frozen in rigid custom and impulse 
isolated and undirected is seen most conspicuously when 



epochs of conservatism and revolutionary ardor alter- 
nate. But the same phenomenon is repeated on a 
smaller scale in individuals. And in society the two 
tendencies and philosophies exist simultaneously; they 
waste in controversial strife the energy that is needed 
for specific criticism and specific reconstruction. 

The release of some portion of the stock of impulses 
is an opportunity, not an end. In its origin it is the 
product of chance ; but it affords imagination and in- 
vention their chance. The moral correlate of liberated 
impulse is not immediate activity, but reflection upon 
the way in which to use impulse to renew disposition 
and reorganize habit. Escape from the clutch of cus- 
tom gives an opportunity to do old things in new ways, 
and thus to construct new ends and means. Breach 
in the crust of the cake of custom releases impulses; 
but it is the work of intelligence to find the ways of 
using them. There is an alternative between anchoring 
a boat in the harbor till it becomes a rotting hulk and 
letting it loose to be the sport of every contrary gust. 
To discover and define this alternative is the business 
of mind, of observant, remembering, contriving dis- 

Habit as a vital art depends upon the animation of 
habit by impulse; only this inspiriting stands between 
habit and stagnation. But art, little as well as great, 
anonymous as well as that distinguished by titles of 
dignity, cannot be improvised. It is impossible without 
spontaneity, but it is not spontaneity. Impulse is 
needed to arouse thought, incite reflection and enliven 


belief. But only thought notes obstructions, invents 
tools, conceives aims, directs technique, and thus con- 
verts impulse into an art which lives in objects. 
Thought is born as the twin of impulse in every mo- 
ment of impeded habit. But unless it is nurtured, it 
speedily dies, and habit and instinct continue their 
civil warfare. There is instinctive wisdom in the ten- 
dency of the young to ignore the limitations of the en- 
vironment. Only thus can they discover their own 
power and learn the differences in different kinds of 
environing limitations. But this discovery when once 
made marks the birth of intelligence ; and with its birth 
comes the responsibility of the mature to observe, to 
recall, to forecast. Every moral life has its radical- 
ism; but this radical factor does not find its full ex- 
pression in direct action but in the courage of intelli- 
gence to go deeper than either tradition or immediate 
impulse goes. To the study of intelligence in action we 
now turn our attention. 



IN discussing habit and impulse we have repeatedly 
met topics where reference to the work of thought was 
imperative. Explicit consideration of the place and 
office of intelligence in conduct can hardly begin other- 
wise than by gathering together these incidental refer- 
ences and reaffirming their significance. The stimula- 
tion of reflective imagination by impulse, its depend- 
ence upon established habits, and its effect in trans- 
forming habit and regulating impulse forms, accord- 
ingly, our first theme. 

Habits are conditions of intellectual efficiency. They 
operate in two ways upon intellect. Obviously, they 
restrict its reach, they fix its boundaries. They are 
blinders that confine the eyes of mind to the road ahead. 
They prevent thought from straying away from its im- 
minent occupation to a landscape more varied and 
picturesque but irrelevant to practice. Outside the 
scope of habits, thought works gropingly, fumbling in 
confused uncertainty; and yet habit made complete in 
routine shuts in thought so effectually that it is no 
longer needed or possible. The routineer's road is a 



ditch out of which he cannot get, whose sides enclose 
him, directing his course so thoroughly that he no 
longer thinks of his path or his destination. All habit- 
forming involves the beginning of an intellectual spec- 
cialization which if unchecked ends in thoughtless 

Significantly enough this fullblown result is called 
absentmindedness. Stimulus and response are mechan- 
ically linked together in an unbroken chain. Each suc- 
cessive act facilely evoked by its predecessor pushes us 
automatically into the next act of a predetermined se- 
ries. Only a signal flag of distress recalls consciousness 
to the task of carrying on. Fortunately nature which 
beckons us to this path of least resistance also puts 
obstacles in the way of our complete acceptance of its 
invitation. Success in achieving a ruthless and dull 
efficiency of action is thwarted by untoward circum- 
stance. The most skilful aptitude bumps at times into 
the unexpected, and so gets into trouble from which 
only observation and invention extricate it. Efficiency 
in following a beaten path has then to be converted 
into breaking a new road through strange lands. 

Nevertheless what in effect is love of ease has mas- 
queraded morally as love of perfection. A goal of fin- 
ished accomplishment has been set up which if it were 
attained would mean only mindless action. It has been 
called complete and free activity when in truth it is 
only a treadmill activity or marching in one place. The 
practical impossibility of reaching, in an all around 
way and all at once such a " perfection " has been rec- 


ognized. But such a goal has nevertheless been con- 
ceived as the ideal, and progress has been defined as 
approximation to it. Under diverse intellectual skies 
the ideal has assumed diverse forms and colors. But 
all of them have involved the conception of a completed 
activity, a static perfection. Desire and need have been 
treated as signs of deficiency, and endeavor as proof 
not of power but of incompletion. 

In Aristotle this conception of an end which ex- 
hausts all realization and excludes all potentiality ap- 
pears as a definition of the highest excellence. It of 
necessity excludes all want and struggle and all de- 
pendencies. It is neither practical nor social. Noth- 
ing is left but a self-revolving, self-sufficing thought 
engaged in contemplating its own sufficiency. Some 
forms of Oriental morals have united this logic with a 
profounder psychology, and have seen that the final 
terminus on this road is Nirvana, an obliteration of 
all thought and desire. In medieval science, the ideal 
reappeared as a definition of heavenly bliss accessible 
only to a redeemed immortal soul. Herbert Spencer 
is far enough away from Aristotle, medieval Christian- 
ity and Buddhism; but the idea re-emerges in his con- 
ception of a goal of evolution in which adaptation of 
organism to environment is complete and final. In 
popular thought, the conception lives in the vague 
thought of a remote state of attainment in which we 
shall be beyond " temptation," and in which virtue 
by its own inertia will persist as a triumphant consum- 
mation. Even Kant who begins with a complete scorn 


for happiness ends with an " ideal " of the eternal and 
undisturbed union of virtue and joy, though in his 
case nothing but a symbolic approximation is admitted 
to be feasible. 

The fallacy in these versions of the same idea is 
perhaps the most pervasive of all fallacies in philos- 
ophy. So common is it that one questions whether it 
might not be called the philosophical fallacy. It con- 
sists in the supposition that whatever is found true 
under certain conditions may forthwith be asserted uni- 
versally or without limits and conditions. Because a 
thirsty man gets satisfaction in drinking water, bliss 
consists in being drowned. Because the success of any 
particular struggle is measured by reaching a point of 
frictionless action, therefore there is such a thing as an 
all-inclusive end of effortless smooth activity endlessly 
maintained. It is forgotten that success is success of 
a specific effort, and satisfaction the fulfilment of a 
specific demand, so that success and satisfaction be- 
come meaningless when severed from the wants and 
struggles whose consummations they are, or when 
taken universally. The philosophy of Nirvana comes 
the closest to admission of this fact, but even it holds 
Nirvana to be desirable. 

Habit is however more than a restriction of thought. 
Habits become negative limits because they are first 
positive agencies. The more numerous our habits the 
wider the field of possible observation and foretelling. 
The more flexible they are, the more refined is percep- 
tion in its discrimination and the more delicate the pres- 


entation evoked by imagination. The sailor is intel- 
lectually at home on the sea, the hunter in the forest, 
the painter in his studio, the man of science in his labo- 
ratory. These commonplaces are universally recog- 
nized in the concrete ; but their significance is obscured 
and their truth denied in the current general theory 
of mind. For they mean nothing more or less than 
that habits formed in process of exercising biological 
aptitudes are the sole agents of observation, recollec- 
tion, foresight and judgment: a mind or consciousness 
or soul in general which performs these operations is 
a myth. 

The doctrine of a single, simple and indissoluble soul 
was the cause and the effect of failure to recognize that 
concrete habits are the means of knowledge and 
thought. Many who think themselves scientifically 
emancipated and who freely advertise the soul for a 
superstition, perpetuate a false notion of what knows, 
that is, of a separate knower. Nowadays they usually 
fix upon consciousness in general, as a stream or process 
or entity ; or else, more specifically upon sensations and 
images as the tools of intellect. Or sometimes they 
think they have scaled the last heights of realism by 
adverting grandiosely to a formal knower in general 
who serves as one term in the knowing relation ; 
by dismissing psychology as irrelevant to knowledge 
and logic, they think to conceal the psychological mon- 
ster they have conjured up. 

Now it is dogmatically stated that no such concep- 
tions of the seat, agent or vehicle will go psychologic- 


ally at the present time. Concrete habits do all the 
perceiving, recognizing, imagining, recalling, judging, 
conceiving and reasoning that is done. " Conscious- 
ness," whether as a stream or as special sensations and 
images, expresses functions of habits, phenomena of 
their formation, operation, their interruption and reor- 

Yet habit does not, of itself, know, for it does not 
of itself stop to think, observe or remember. Neither 
does impulse of itself engage in reflection or contem- 
plation. It just lets go. Habits by themselves are too 
organized, too insistent and determinate to need to 
indulge in inquiry or imagination. And impulses are 
too chaotic, tumultuous and confused to be able to 
know even if they wanted to. Habit as such is too 
definitely adapted to an environment to survey or an- 
alyze it, and impulse is too indeterminately related to 
the environment to be capable of reporting anything 
about it. Habit incorporates, enacts or overrides ob- 
jects, but it doesn't know them. Impulse scatters and 
obliterates them with its restless stir. A certain deli- 
cate combination of habit and impulse is requisite for 
observation, memory and judgment. Knowledge which 
is not projected against the black unknown lives in the 
muscles, not in consciousness. 

We may, indeed, be said to know how by means of our 
habits. And a sensible intimation of the practical func- 
tion of knowledge has led men to identify all acquired 
practical skill, or even the instinct of animals, with 
knowledge. We walk and read aloud, we get off and 


on street cars, we dress and undress, and do a thousand 
useful acts without thinking of them. We know some- 
thing, namely, how to do them. Bergson's philosophy 
of intuition is hardly more than an elaborately docu- 
mented commentary on the popular conception that by 
instinct a bird knows how to build a nest and a spider 
to weave a web. But after all, this practical work 
done by habit and instinct in securing prompt and exact 
adjustment to the environment is not knowledge, except 
by courtesy. Or, if we choose to call it knowledge 
and no one has the right to issue an ukase to the con- 
trary then other things also called knowledge, knowl- 
edge of and about things, knowledge that things are 
thus and so, knowledge that involves reflection and con- 
scious appreciation, remains of a different sort, unac- 
counted for and undescribed. 

For it is a commonplace that the more suavely ef- 
ficient a habit the more unconsciously it operates. Only 
a hitch in its workings occasions emotion and provokes 
thought. Carlyle and Rousseau, hostile in tempera- 
ment and outlook, yet agree in looking at conscious- 
ness as a kind of disease, since we have no consciousness 
of bodily or mental organs as long as they work at ease 
in perfect health. The idea of disease is, however, aside 
from the point, unless we are pessimistic enough to 
regard every slip in total adjustment of a person to its 
surroundings as something abnormal a point of view 
which once more would identify well-being with perfect 
automatism. The truth is that in every waking mo- 
ment, the complete balance of the organism and its 


environment is constantly interfered with and as con- 
stantly restored. Hence the " stream of conscious- 
ness " in general, and in particular that phase of it cele- 
brated by William James as alternation of flights and 
perchings. Life is interruptions and recoveries. Con- 
tinuous interruption is not possible in the activities 
of an individual. Absence of perfect equilibrium is not 
equivalent to a complete crushing of organized activ- 
ity. When the disturbance amounts to such a pitch 
as that, the self goes to pieces. It is like shell-shock. 
Normally, the environment remains sufficiently in har- 
mony with the body of organized activities to sustain 
most of them in active function. But a novel factor 
in the surroundings releases some impulse which tends 
to initiate a different and incompatible activity, to 
bring about a redistribution of the elements of organ- 
ized activity between those have been respectively 
central and subsidiary. Thus the hand guided by the 
eye moves toward a surface. Visual quality is the dom- 
inant element. The hand comes in contact with an 
object. The eye does not cease to operate but some 
unexpected quality of touch, a voluptuous smoothness 
or annoying heat, compels a readjustment in which the 
touching, handling activity strives to dominate the ac- 
tion. Now at these moments of a shifting in activity 
conscious feeling and thought arise and are accentu- 
ated. The disturbed adjustment of organism and en- 
vironment is reflected in a temporary strife which con- 
cludes in a coming to terms of the old habit and the new 


In this period of redistribution impulse determines 
the direction of movement. It furnishes the focus about 
which reorganization swirls. Our attention in short is 
always directed forward to bring to notice something 
which is imminent but which as yet escapes us. Impulse 
defines the peering, the search, the inquiry. It is, in 
logical language, the movement into the unknown, not 
into the immense inane of the unknown at large, but into 
that special unknown which when it is hit upon restores 
an ordered, unified action. During this search, old 
habit supplies content, filling, definite, recognizable, 
subject-matter. It begins as vague presentiment of 
what we are going towards. As organized habits are 
definitely deployed and focused, the confused situation 
takes on form, it is " cleared up " the essential func- 
tion of intelligence. Processes become objects. With- 
out habit there is only irritation and confused hesita- 
tion. With habit alone there is a machine-like repeti- 
tion, a duplicating recurrence of old acts. With con- 
flict of habits and release of impulse there is conscious 


We are going far afield from any direct moral issue. 
But the problem of the place of knowledge and judg- 
ment in conduct depends upon getting the fundamental 
psychology of thought straightened out. So the ex- 
cursion must be continued. We compare life to a trav- 
eler faring forth. We may consider him first at a 
moment where his activity is confident, straightforward, 
organized. He marches on giving no direct attention to 
his path, nor thinking of his destination. Abruptly he 
is pulled up, arrested. Something is going wrong in 
his activity. From the standpoint of an onlooker, he 
has met an obstacle which must be overcome before his 
behavior can be unified into a successful ongoing. From 
his own standpoint, there is shock, confusion, perturba- 
tion, uncertainty. For the moment he doesn't know 
what hit him, as we say, nor where he is going. But 
a new impulse is stirred which becomes the starting 
point of an investigation, a looking into things, a trying 
to see them, to find out what is going on. Habits which 
were interfered with begin to get a new direction as they 
cluster about the impulse to look and see. The blocked 
habits of locomotion give him a sense of where he was 
going, of what he had set out to do, and of the ground 
already traversed. As he looks, he sees definite things 
which are not just things at large but which are related 



to his course of action. The momentum of the activity 
entered upon persists as a sense of direction, of aim; 
it is an anticipatory project. In short, he recollects, 
observes and plans. 

The trinity of these forecasts, perceptions and re- 
membrances form a subject-matter of discriminated 
and identified objects. These objects represent habits 
turned inside out. They exhibit both the onward ten- 
dency of habit and the objective conditions which have 
been incorporated within it. Sensations in immediate 
consciousness are elements of action dislocated through 
the shock of interruption. They never, however, com- 
pletely monopolize the scene; for there is a body of 
residual undisturbed habits which is reflected in remem- 
bered and perceived objects having a meaning. Thus 
out of shock and puzzlement there gradually emerges a 
figured framework of objects, past, present, future. 
These shade off variously into a vast penumbra of 
vague, unfigured things, a setting which is taken for 
granted and not at all explicitly presented. The com- 
plexity of the figured scene in its scope and refinement 
of contents depends wholly upon prior habits and theii 
organization. The reason a baby can know little and 
an experienced adult know much when confronting the 
same things is not because the latter has a " mind " 
which the former has not, but because one has already 
formed habits which the other has still to acquire. The 
scientific man and the philosopher like the carpenter, 
the physician and politician know with their habits not 
with their " consciousness." The latter is eventual, noh 


a source. Its occurrence marks a peculiarly delicate 
connection between highly organized habits and un- 
organized impulses. Its contents or objects, observed, 
recollected, projected and generalized into principles, 
represent the incorporated material of habits coming 
to the surface, because habits are disintegrating at the 
touch of conflicting impulses. But they also gather 
themselves together to comprehend impulse and make 
it effective. 

This account is more or less strange as psychology 
but certain aspects of it are commonplaces in a static 
logical formulation. It is, for example, almost a truism 
that knowledge is both synthetic and analytic ; a set of 
discriminated elements connected by relations. This 
combination of opposite factors of unity and difference, 
elements and relations, has been a standing paradox and 
mystery of the theory of knowledge. It will remain so 
until we connect the theory of knowledge with an em- 
pirically verifiable theory of behavior. The steps of 
this connection have been sketched and we may enumer- 
ate them. We know at such times as habits are 
impeded, when a conflict is set up in which impulse is 
released. So far as this impulse sets up a definite for- 
ward tendency it constitutes the forward, prospective 
character of knowledge. In this phase unity or syn- 
thesis is found. We are striving to unify our responses, 
to achieve a consistent environment which will restore 
unity of conduct. Unity, relations, are prospective; 
they mark out lines converging to a focus. They are 
" ideal." But what we know, the objects that present 


themselves with definiteness and assurance, are retro- 
spective; they are the conditions which have been mas- 
tered, incorporated in the past. They are elements, 
discriminated, analytic just because old habits so far 
as they are checked are also broken into objects which 
define the obstruction of ongoing activity. They are 
" real," not ideal. Unity is something sought ; split, 
division is something given, at hand. Were we to carry 
the same psychology into detail we should come upon 
the explanation of perceived particulars and conceived 
universals, of the relation of discovery and proof, in- 
duction and deduction, the discrete and the continuous. 
Anything approaching an adequate discussion is too 
technical to be here in plaje. But the main point, 
however technical and abstract it may be in statement, 
is of far reaching importance for everything concerned 
with moral beliefs, conscience and judgments of right 
and wrong. 

The most general, if vaguest issue, concerns the na- 
ture of the organ of moral knowledge. As long as 
knowledge in general is thought to be the work of a 
special agent, whether soul, consciousness, intellect or 
a knower in general, there is a logical propulsion to- 
wards postulating a special agent for knowledge of 
moral distinctions. Consciousness and conscience have 
more than a verbal connection. If the former is some- 
thing in itself, a seat or power which antecedes intel- 
lectual functions, why should not the latter be also a 
unique faculty with its own separate jurisdiction? If 
reason in general is independent of empirically verifi- 


able realities of human nature, such as instincts and 
organized habits, why should there not also exist a 
moral or practical reason independent of natural op- 
erations? On the other hand if it is recognized that 
knowing is carried on through the medium of natural 
factors, the assumption of special agencies for moral 
knowing becomes outlawed and incredible. Now the 
matter of the existence or non-existence of such special 
agencies is no technically remote matter. The belief 
in a separate organ involves belief in a separate and 
independent subject-matter. The question fundamen- 
tally at issue is nothing more or less than whether 
moral values, regulations, principles and objects form 
a separate and independent domain or whether they are 
part and parcel of a normal development of a life 

These considerations explain why the denial of a 
separate organ of knowledge, of a separate instinct or 
impulse toward knowing, is not the wilful philistinism 
it is sometimes alleged to be. There is of course a sense 
in which there is a distinctive impulse, or rather habit- 
ual disposition, to know. But in the same sense there 
is an impulse to aviate, to run a typewriter or write 
stories for magazines. Some activities result in knowl- 
edge, as others result in these other things. The result 
may be so important as to induce distinctive attention to 
the activities in order to foster them. From an incident, 
almost a by-product, attainment of truth, physical, so- 
cial, moral, may become the leading characteristic of 
some activities. Under such circumstances, they be- 


come transformed. Knowing is then a distinctive activ- 
ity, with its own ends and its peculiarly adapted pro- 
cesses. All this is a matter of course. Having hit 
upon knowledge accidentally, as it were, and the prod- 
uct being liked and its importance noted, knowledge- 
getting becomes, upon occasion, a definite occupation. 
And education confirms the disposition, as it may con- 
firm that of a musician or carpenter or tennis- 
player. But there is no more an original separate im- 
pulse or power in one case than in the other. Every 
habit is impulsive, that is projective, urgent, and the 
habit of knowing is no exception. 

The reason for insisting on this fact is not failure 
to appreciate the distinctive value of knowledge when 
once it comes into existence. This value is so immense 
it may be called unique. The aim of the discussion is 
not to subordinate knowing to some hard, prosaic utili- 
tarian end. The reason for insistence upon the deriva- 
tive position of knowing in activity, roots in a sense for 
fact, and in a realization that the doctrine of a sepa- 
rate original power and impulse of knowledge cuts 
knowledge off from other phases of human nature, and 
results in its non-natural treatment. The isolation of 
intellectual disposition from concrete empirical facts 
of biological impulse and habit-formation entails a de- 
nial of the continuity of mind with nature. Aristotle 
asserted that the faculty of pure knowing enters a man 
from without as through a door. Many since his day 
have asserted that knowing and doing have no intrinsic 
connection with each other. Reason is asserted to have 


no responsibility to experience ; conscience is said to be 
a sublime oracle independent of education and social in- 
fluences. All of these views follow naturally from a 
failure to recognize that all knowing, judgment, belief 
represent an acquired result of the workings of natural 
impulses in connection with environment. 

Upon the ethical side, as has been intimated, the mat- 
ter at issue concerns the nature of conscience. Con- 
science has been asserted by orthodox moralists to be 
unique in origin and subject-matter. The same view is 
embodied by implication in all those popular methods 
of moral training which attempt to fix rigid authorita- 
tive notions of right and wrong by disconnecting moral 
judgments from the aids and tests which are used in 
other forms of knowledge. Thus it has been asserted 
that conscience is an original faculty of illumination 
which (if it has not been dimmed by indulgence in sin) 
shines upon moral truths and objects and reveals them 
without effort for precisely what they are. Those who 
hold this view differ enormously among themselves as 
to the nature of the objects of conscience. Some hold 
them to be general principles, others individual acts, 
others the order of worth among motives, others the 
sense of duty in general, others the unqualified author- 
ity of right. Still others carry the implied logic of 
authority to conclusion, and identify knowledge of 
moral truths with a divine supernatural revelation of a 
code of commandments. 

But among these diversities there is agreement about 
one fundamental. There must be a separate non- 


natural faculty of moral knowledge because the things 
to be known, the matters of right and wrong, good and 
evil, obligation and responsibility, form a separate do- 
main, separate that is from that of ordinary action in 
its usual human and social significance. The latter ac- 
tivities may be prudential, political, scientific, economic. 
But, from the standpoint of these theories, they have 
no moral meaning until they are brought under the 
purview of this separate unique department of our 
nature. It thus turns out that the so-called intuitional 
theories of moral knowledge concentrate in themselves 
all the ideas which are subject to criticism in these 
pages: Namely, the assertion that morality is distinct 
in origin, working and destiny from the natural struc- 
ture and career of human nature. This fact is the ex- 
cuse, if excuse be desired, for a seemingly technical 
excursion that links intellectual activity with the con- 
joint operation of habit and impulse. 


So far the discussion has ignored the fact that there 
is an influential school of moralists (best represented 
in contemporary thought by the utilitarians) which 
also insists upon the natural, empirical character of 
moral judgments and beliefs. But unfortunately this 
school has followed a false psychology ; and has tended, 
by calling out a reaction, actually to strengthen the 
hands of those who persist in assigning to morals a 
separate domain of action and in demanding a separate 
agent of moral knowledge. The essentials of this false 
psychology consist in two traits. The first, that knowl- 
edge originates from sensations (instead of from habits 
and impulses); and the second, that judgment about 
good and evil in action consists in calculation of agree- 
able and disagreeable consequences, of profit and loss. 
It is not surprising that this view seems to many to 
degrade morals, as well as to be false to facts. If the 
logical outcome of an empirical view of moral knowledge 
is that all morality is concerned with calculating what 
is expedient, politic, prudent, measured by consequences 
in the ways of pleasurable and painful sensations, then, 
say moralists of the orthodox school, we will have 
naught to do with such a sordid view: It is a reduction 
to the absurd of its premisses. We will have a 



rate department for morals and a separate organ of 
moral knowledge. 

Our first problem is then to investigate the nature 
of ordinary judgments upon what it is best or wise to 
do, or, in ordinary language, the nature of deliberation. 
We begin with a summary assertion that deliberation is 
a dramatic rehearsal (in imagination) of various com- 
peting possible lines of action. It starts from the 
blocking of efficient overt action, due to that conflict 
of prior habit and newly released impulse to which ref- 
erence has been made. Then each habit, each impulse, 
involved in the temporary suspense of overt action 
takes its turn in being tried out. Deliberation is an 
experiment in finding out what the various lines of pos- 
sible action are really like. It is an experiment in 
making various combinations of selected elements of 
habits and impulses, to see what the resultant action 
would be like if it were entered upon. But the trial is 
in imagination, not in overt fact. The experiment is 
carried on by tentative rehearsals in thought which do 
not affect physical facts outside the body. Thought 
runs ahead and foresees outcomes, and thereby avoids 
having to await the instruction of actual failure and 
disaster. An act overtly tried out is irrevocable, its 
consequences cannot be blotted out. An act tried out 
in imagination is not final or fatal. It is retrievable. 

Each conflicting habit and impulse takes its turn in 
projecting itself upon the screen of imagination. It 
unrolls a picture of its future history, of the career it 
would have if it were given head. Although overt ex- 


hibition is checked by the pressure of contrary propul- 
sive tendencies, this very inhibition gives habit a chance 
at manifestation in thought. Deliberation means pre- 
cisely that activity is disintegrated, and that its various 
elements hold one another up. While none has force 
enough to become the center of a re-directed activity, 
or to dominate a course of action, each has enough 
power to check others from exercising mastery. Activ- 
ity does not cease in order to give way to reflection; 
activity is turned from execution into intra-organic 
channels, resulting in dramatic rehearsal. 

If activity were directly exhibited it would result in 
certain experiences, contacts with the environment. It 
would succeed by making environing objects, things and 
persons, co-partners in its forward movement; or else 
it would run against obstacles and be troubled, pos- 
sibly defeated. These experiences of contact with ob- 
jects and their qualities give meaning, character, to an 
otherwise fluid, unconscious activity. We find out what 
seeing means by the objects which are seen. They con- 
stitute the significance of visual activity which would 
otherwise remain a blank. " Pure " activity is for con- 
sciousness pure emptiness. It acquires a content or 
filling of meanings only in static termini, what it comes 
to rest in, or in the obstacles which check its onward 
movement and deflect it. As has been remarked, the ob- 
ject is that which objects. 

There is no difference in this respect between a visible 
course of conduct and one proposed in deliberation. 
We have no direct consciousness of what we purpose 


to do. We can judge its nature, assign its meaning, 
only by following it into the situations whither it leads, 
noting the objects against which it runs and seeing how 
they rebuff or unexpectedly encourage it. In imagina- 
tion as in fact we know a road only by what we see as 
we travel on it. Moreover the objects which prick out 
the course of a proposed act until we can see its design 
also serve to direct eventual overt activity. Every ob- 
ject hit upon as the habit traverses its imaginary path 
has a direct effect upon existing activities. It rein- 
forces, inhibits, redirects habits already working or 
stirs up others which had not previously actively 
entered in. In thought as well as in overt action, the 
objects experienced in following out a course of action 
attract, repel, satisfy, annoy, promote and retard. 
Thus deliberation proceeds. To say that at last it 
ceases is to say that choice, decision, takes place. 

What then is choice? Simply hitting in imagination 
upon an object which furnishes an adequate stimulus 
to the recovery of overt action. Choice is made as soon 
as some habit, or some combination of elements of habits 
and impulse, finds a way fully open. Then energy is 
released. The mind is made up, composed, unified. As 
long as deliberation pictures shoals or rocks or trouble- 
some gales as marking the route of a contemplated 
voyage, deliberation goes on. But when the various 
factors in action fit harmoniously together, when imag- 
ination finds no annoying hindrance, when there is a 
picture of open seas, filled sails and favoring winds, the 
voyage is definitely entered upon. This decisive direc- 


tion of action constitutes choice. It is a great error to 
suppose that we have no preferences until there is a 
choice. We are always biased beings, tending in one 
direction rather than another. The occasion of de- 
liberation is an excess of preferences, not natural 
apathy or an absence of likings. We want things that 
are incompatible with one another; therefore we have 
to make a choice of what we really want, of the course 
of action, that is, which most fully releases activities. 
Choice is not the emergence of preference out of indif- 
ference. It is the emergence of a unified preference out 
of competing preferences. Biases that had held one 
another in check now, temporarily at least, reinforce 
one another, and constitute a unified attitude. The 
moment arrives when imagination pictures an objective 
consequence of action which supplies an adequate stim- 
ulus and releases definitive action. All deliberation is 
a search for a way to act, not for a final terminus. Its 
office is to facilitate stimulation. 

Hence there is reasonable and unreasonable choice. 
The object thought of may simply stimulate some im- 
pulse or habit to a pitch of intensity where it is tem- 
porarily irresistible. It then overrides all competitors 
and secures for itself the sole right of way. The object 
looms large in imagination ; it swells to fill the field. It 
allows no room for alternatives; it absorbs us, en- 
raptures us, carries us away, sweeps us off our feet by 
its own attractive force. Then choice is arbitrary, un- 
reasonable. But the object thought of may be one 
which stimulates by unifying, harmonizing, different 


competing tendencies. It may release an activity in 
which all are fulfilled, not indeed, in their original form, 
but in a " sublimated " fashion, that is in a way which 
modifies the original direction of each by reducing it 
to a component along with others in an action of trans- 
formed quality. Nothing is more extraordinary than 
the delicacy, promptness and ingenuity with which de- 
liberation is capable of making eliminations and re- 
combinations in projecting the course of a possible 
activity. To every shade of imagined circumstance 
there is a vibrating response ; and to every complex sit- 
uation a sensitiveness as to its integrity, a feeling of 
whether it does justice to all facts, or overrides some 
to the advantage of others. Decision is reasonable 
when deliberation is so conducted. There may be 
error in the result, but it comes from lack of data not 
from ineptitude in handling them. 

These facts give us the key to the old controversy 
as to the respective places of desire and reason in con- 
duct. It is notorious that some moralists have de- 
plored the influence of desire ; they have found the heart 
of strife between good and evil in the conflict of desire 
with reason, in which the former has force on its side 
and the latter authority. But reasonableness is in fact 
a quality of an effective relationship among desires 
rather than a thing opposed to desire. It signifies the 
order, perspective, proportion which is achieved, during 
deliberation, out of a diversity of earlier incompatible 
preferences. Choice is reasonable when it induces us 
to act reasonably; that is, with regard to the claims 


of each of the competing habits and impulses. This 
implies, of course, the presence of a comprehensive ob- 
ject, one which coordinates, organizes and functions 
each factor of the situation which gave rise to conflict, 
suspense and deliberation. This is as true when some 
" bad " impulses and habits enter in as when approved 
ones require unification. We have already seen the 
effects of choking them off, of efforts at direct sup- 
pression. Bad habits can be subdued only by being 
utilized as elements in a new, more generous and com- 
prehensive scheme of action, and good ones be pre- 
served from rot only by similar use. 

The nature of the strife of reason and passion is 
well stated by William James. The cue of passion, he 
says in effect, istokeep imagination dwelling upon 
those objects which are congenial to it, whicfr feed it, 
and which by feeding it intensify its force, until it 
crowds out all Thought ofother objects. An impulse 
or habit which is strongly emotional magnifies all ob- 
jects that are congruous with it and smothers those 
which are opposed whenever they present themselves. A 
passionate activity learns to work itself up artificially 
as Oliver Cromwell indulged in fits of anger when 
he wanted to do things that his conscience would not 
justify. A presentiment is felt that if the thought of 
contrary objects is allowed to get a lodgment in imagi- 
nation, these objects will work and work to chill and 
freeze out the ardent passion of the moment. 

The conclusion is not that the emotional, passionate 
phase of action can be or should be eliminated in be- 


half of a bloodless reason. More " passions," not fewer, 
is the answer. To check the influence of hate there must 
be sympathy, while to rationalize sympathy there are 
needed emotions of curiosity, caution, respect for the 
freedom of others dispositions which evoke objects 
which balance those called up by sympathy, and pre- 
vent its degeneration into maudlin sentiment and med- 
dling interference. Rationality, once more, is not a 
force to evoke against impulse and habit. It is the 
attainment of a working harmony among diverse de- 
sires. " Reason " as a noun signifies the happy cooper- 
ation of a multitude of dispositions, such as sympathy, 
curiosity, exploration, experimentation, frankness, pur- 
suit to follow things through circumspection, to 
look about at the context, etc., etc. The elaborate sys- 
tems of science are born not of reason but of impulses 
at first slight and flickering; impulses to handle, move 
about, to hunt, to uncover, to mix things separated and 
divide things combined, to talk and to listen. Method 
is their effectual organization into continuous dispo- 
sitions of inquiry, development and testing. It occurs 
after these acts and because of their consequences. 
Reason, the rational attitude, is the resulting disposi- 
tion, not a ready-made antecedent which can be in- 
voked at will and set into movement. The man who 
would intelligently cultivate intelligence will widen, not 
narrow, his life of strong impulses while aiming at their 
happy coincidence in operation. 

The clew of impulse is, as we say, to start some- 
thing. It is in a hurry. It rushes us off our feet. It 


leaves no time for examination, memory and foresight. 
But the clew of reason is, as the phrase also goes, to 
stop and think. Force, however, is required to stop the 
ongoing of a habit or impulse. This is supplied by 
another habit. The resulting period of delay, of sus- 
pended and postponed overt action, is the period in 
which activities that are refused direct outlet project 
imaginative counterparts. It signifies, in technical 
phrase, the mediation of impulse. For an isolated im- 
pulse is immediate, narrowing the world down to the 
directly present. Variety of competing tendencies en- 
larges the world. It brings a diversity of considera- 
tions before the mind, and enables action to take place 
finally in view of an object generously conceived and 
delicately refined, composed by a long process of 
selections and combinations. In popular phrase, to be 
deliberate is to be slow, unhurried. It takes time to put 
objects in order. 

There are however vices of reflection as well as of 
impulse. We may not look far enough ahead because 
we are hurried into action by stress of impulse; but 
we may also become overinterested in the delights of 
reflection; we become afraid of assuming the responsi- 
bilities of decisive choice and action, and in general be 
sicklied over by a pale cast of thought. We may be- 
come so curious about remote and abstract matters 
that we give only a begrudged, impatient attention to 
the things right about us. We may fancy we are glori- 
fying the love of truth for its own sake when we are 
only indulging a pet occupation and slighting demands 


of the immediate situation. Men who devote themselves 
to thinking are likely to be unusually unthinking in 
some respects, as for example in immediate personal re- 
lationships. A man to whom exact scholarship is an 
absorbing pursuit may be more than ordinarily vague 
in ordinary matters. Humility and impartiality may 
be shown in a specialized field, and pettiness and ar- 
rogance in dealing with other persons. " Reason " is 
not an antecedent force which serves as a panacea. It 
is a laborious achievement of habit needing to be con- 
tinually worked over. A balanced arrangement of pro- 
pulsive activities manifested in deliberation namely, 
reason depends upon a sensitive and proportionate 
emotional sensitiveness. Only a one-sided, over-special- 
ized emotion leads to thinking of it as separate from 
emotion. The traditional association of justice and 
reason has good psychology back of it. Both imply a 
balanced distribution of thought and energy. Delib- 
eration is irrational in the degree in which an end is 
so fixed, a passion or interest so absorbing, that the 
foresight of consequences is warped to include only 
what furthers execution of its predetermined bias. De- 
liberation is rational in the degree in which forethought 
flexibly remakes old aims and habits, institutes percep- 
tion and love of new ends and acts. 


We now return to a consideration of the utilitarian 
theory according to which deliberation consists in cal- 
culation of courses of action on the basis of the profit 
and loss to which they lead. The contrast of this no- 
tion with fact is obvious. The office of deliberation is 
not to supply an inducement to act by figuring out 
where the most advantage is to be procured. It is to 
resolve entanglements in existing activity, restore con- 
tinuity, recover harmony, utilize loose impulse and re- 
direct habit. To this end observation of present con- 
ditions, recollection of previous situations are devoted. 
Deliberation has its beginning in troubled activity and 
its conclusion in choice of a course of action which 
straightens it out. It no more resembles the casting-up 
of accounts of profit and loss, pleasures and pains, than 
an actor engaged in drama resembles a clerk recording 
debit and credit items in his ledger. 

The primary fact is that man is a being who responds 
in action to the stimuli of the environment. This fact 
is complicated in deliberation, but it certainly is not 
abolished. We continue to react to an object presented 
in imagination as we react to objects presented in ob- 
servation. The baby does not move to the mother's 
breast because of calculation of the advantages of 
warmth and food over against the pains of effort. Nor 



does the miser seek gold, nor the architect strive t<i 
make plans, nor the physician to heal, because of reck; 
onings of comparative advantage and disadvantage. 
Habit, occupation, furnishes the necessity of forward 
action in one case as instinct does in the other. We do 
not act from reasoning; but reasoning puts before us 
objects which are not directly or sensibly present, so 
that we then may react directly to these objects, with 
aversion, attraction, indifference or attachment, pre- 
cisely as we would to the same objects if they were 
physically present. In the end it results in a case of 
direct stimulus and response. In one case the stimulus 
is presented at once through sense ; in the other case, it 
is indirectly reached through memory and constructive 
imagination. But the matter of directness and in- 
directness concerns the way the stimulus is reached, 
not the way in which it operates. 

Joy and suffering, pain and pleasure, the agreeable 
and disagreeable, play their considerable role in de- 
liberation. Not, however, by way of a calculated es- 
timate of future delights and miseries, but by way of 
experiencing present ones. The reaction of joy and 
sorrow, elation and depression, is as natural a response 
to objects presented in imagination as to those pre- 
sented in sense. Complacency and annoyance follow 
hard at the heels of any object presented in image as 
they do upon its sensuous experience. Some objects 
when thought of are congruent to our existing state 
of activity. They fit in, they are welcome. They agree, 
or are agreeable, not as matter of calculation but as 


matter of experienced fact. Other objects rasp; they 
cut across activity; they are tiresome, hateful, un- 
welcome. They disagree with the existing trend of 
activity, that is, they are disagreeable, and in no other 
way than as a bore who prolongs his visit, a dun we 
can't pay, or a pestiferous mosquito who goes on buzz- 
ing. We do not think of future losses and expansions. 
We think, through imagination, of objects into which 
in the future some course of action will run, and we 
are now delighted or depressed, pleased or pained at 
what is presented. This running commentary of likes 
and dislikes, attractions and disdains, joys and sor- 
rows, reveals to any man who is intelligent enough to 
note them and to study their occasions his own char- 
acter. It instructs him as to the composition and di- 
rection of the activities that make him what he is. To 
know what jars an activity and what agrees with it is 
to know something important about that activity and 
about ourselves. 

Some one may ask what practical difference it makes 
whether we are influenced by calculation of future joys 
and annoyances or by experience of present ones. To 
such a question one can hardly reply except in the 
words " All the difference in the world." In the first 
place, no difference can be more important than that 
which concerns the nature of the subject-matter of de- 
liberation. The calculative theory would have it that 
this subject-matter is future feelings, sensations, and 
that actions and thought are external means to get 
and avoid these sensations. If such a theory has any 


practical influence, it is to advise a person to concen- 
trate upon his own most subjective and private feelings. 
It gives him no choice except between a sickly intro- 
spection and an intricate calculus of remote, inaccessi- 
ble and indeterminate results. In fact, deliberation, as 
a tentative trying-out of various courses of action, is 
outlooking. It flies toward and settles upon objective 
situations not upon feelings. No doubt we sometimes 
fall to deliberating upon the effect of action upon our 
future feelings, thinking of a situation mainly with ref- 
erence to the comforts and discomforts it will excite in 
us. But these moments are precisely our sentimental 
moments of self-pity or self-glorification. They con- 
duce to morbidity, sophistication, isolation from others ; 
while facing our acts in terms of their objective con- 
sequences leads to enlightenment and to consideration 
of others. The first objection therefore to deliberation 
as a calculation of future feelings is that, if it is con- 
sistently adhered to, it makes an abnormal case the 
standard one. 

If however an objective estimate is attempted, 
thought gets speedily lost in a task impossible of 
achievement. Future pleasures and pains are influ- 
enced by two factors which are independent of present 
choice and effort. They depend upon our own state at 
some future moment and upon the surrounding cir- 
cumstances of that moment. Both of these are vari- 
ables which change independently of present resolve and 
action. They are much more important determinants 
of future sensations than is anything which can now be 


calculated. Things sweet in anticipation are bitter in 
actual taste, things we now turn from in aversion are 
welcome at another moment in our career. Independ- 
ently of deep changes in character, such as from merci- 
fulness to callousness, from fretfulness to cheerfulness, 
there are unavoidable changes in the waxing and wan- 
ing of activity. A child pictures a future of unlimited 
toys and unrestricted sweetmeats. An adult pictures an 
object as giving pleasure while he is empty while the 
thing arrives in a moment of repletion. A sympathetic 
person reckons upon the utilitarian basis the pains of 
others as a debit item in his calculations. But why not 
harden himself so that others' sufferings won't count? 
Why not foster an arrogant cruelty so that the suf- 
fering of others which will follow from one's own action 
will fall on the credit side of the reckoning, be pleasur- 
able, all to the good? 

Future pleasures and pains, even of one's own, are 
among the things most elusive of calculation. Of all 
things they lend themselves least readily to anything 
approaching a mathematical calculus. And the further 
into the future we extend our view, and the more the 
pleasures of others enter into the account, the more 
hopeless does the problem of estimating future conse- 
quences become. All of the elements become more and 
more indeterminate. Even if one could form a fairly 
accurate picture of the things that give pleasure to 
most people at the present moment an exceedingly 
difficult task he cannot foresee the detailed circum- 
stances which will give a decisive turn to enjoyment at 


future times and remote places. Do pleasures due to 
defective education or unrefined disposition, to say 
nothing of the pleasures of sensuality and brutality, 
rank the same as those of cultivated persons having 
acute social sensitiveness? The only reason the im- 
possibility of the hedonistic calculus is not self-evident 
is that theorists in considering it unconsciously sub- 
stitute for calculation of future pleasures an apprecia- 
tion of present ones, a present realization in imagina- 
tion of future objective situations. 

For, in truth, a man's judgment of future joys and 
sorrows is but a projection of what now satisfies and 
annoys him. A man of considerate disposition now 
feels hurt at the thought of an act bringing harm to 
others, and so he is on the lookout for consequences of 
that sort, ranking them as of high importance. He 
may even be so abnormally sensitive to such conse- 
quences that he is held back from needed vigorous ac- 
tion. He fears to do the things which are for the real 
welfare of others because he shrinks from the thought 
of the pain to be inflicted upon them by needed meas- 
ures. A man of an executive type, engrossed in carry- 
ing through a scheme, will react in present emotion to 
everything concerned with its external success ; the pain 
its execution brings to others will not occur to him, or 
if it does, his mind will easily glide over it. This sort 
of consequence will seem to him of slight importance 
in comparison with the commercial or political changes 
which bulk in his plans. What a man foresees and fails 
to foresee, what he appraises highly and at a low rate, 


what he deems important and trivial, what he dwells 
upon and what he slurs over, what he easily recalls and 
what he naturally forgets all of these things depend 
upon his character. His estimate of future conse- 
quences of the agreeable and annoying is consequently 
of much greater value as an index of what he now is 
than as a prediction of future results. 

One has only to read between the lines to see the 
enormous difference that marks off modern utilitarian- 
ism from epicureanism, in spite of similarities in pro- 
fessed psychologies. Epicureanism is too worldly-wise 
to indulge in attempts to base present action upon pre- 
carious estimates of future and universal pleasures and 
pains. On the contrary it says let the future go, for 
life is uncertain. Who knows when it will end, or what 
fortune the morrow will bring? Foster, then, with jeal- 
ous care every gift of pleasure now allotted to you, 
dwell upon it with lingering love, prolong it as best you 
may. Utilitarianism on the contrary was a part of a 
philanthropic and reform movement of the nineteenth 
century. Its commendation of an elaborate and im- 
possible calculus was in reality part of a movement to 
develop a type of character which should have a wide 
social outlook, sympathy with the experiences of all 
sentient creatures, one zealous about the social effects 
of all proposed acts, especially those of collective legis- 
lation and administration. It was concerned not with 
extracting the honey of the passing moment but with 
breeding improved bees and constructing hives. 

After all, the object of foresight of consequences is 


not to predict the future. It is to ascertain the mean- 
ing of present activities and to secure, so far as pos- 
sible, a present activity with a unified meaning. We are 
not the creators of heaven and earth; we have no re- 
sponsibility for their operations save as their motions 
are altered by our movements. Our concern is with 
the significance of that slight fraction of total activity 
which starts from ourselves. The best laid plans of 
men as well of mice gang aglee; and for the same 
reason: inability to dominate the future. The power 
of man and mouse is infinitely constricted in comparison 
with the power of events. Men always build better or 
worse than they know, for their acts are taken up into 
the broad sweep of events. 

Hence the problem of deliberation is not to calculate 
future happenings but to appraise present proposed 
actions. We judge present desires and habits by their 
tendency to produce certain consequences. It is our 
business to watch the course of our action so as to see 
what is the significance, the import of our habits and 
dispositions. The future outcome is not certain. But 
neither is it certain what the present fire will do in the 
future. It may be unexpectedly fed or extinguished. 
But its tendency is a knowable matter, what it will do 
under certain circumstances. And so we know what is 
the tendency of malice, charity, conceit, patience. We 
know by observing their consequences, by recollecting 
what we have observed, by using that recollection in 
constructive imaginative forecasts of the future, by 


using the thought of future consequence to tell the 
quality of the act now proposed. 

Deliberation is not calculation of indeterminate fu- 
ture results. The present, not the future, is ours. No 
shrewdness, no store of information will make it ours. 
But by constant watchfulness concerning the tendency 
of acts, by noting disparities between former judgments 
and actual outcomes, and tracing that part of the dis- 
parity that was due to deficiency and excess in dispo- 
sition, we come to know the meaning of present acts, 
and to guide them in the light of that meaning. The 
moral is to develop conscientiousness, ability to judge 
the significance of what we are doing and to use that 
judgment in directing what we do, not by means of 
direct cultivation of something called conscience, or 
reason, or a faculty of moral knowledge, but by fos- 
tering those impulses and habits which experience has 
shown to make us sensitive, generous, imaginative, im- 
partial in perceiving the tendency of our inchoate dawn- 
ing activities. Every attempt to forecast the future is 
subject in the end to the auditing of present concrete 
impulse and habit. Therefore the important thing is 
the fostering of those habits and impulses which lead to 
a broad, just, sympathetic survey of situations. 

The occasion of deliberation, that is of the attempt 
to find a stimulus to complete overt action in thought 
of some future object, is confusion and uncertainty 
in present activities. A similar devision in activi- 
ties and need of a like deliberative activity for the 


sake of recovery of unity is sure to recur, to recur again 
and again, no matter how wise the decision. Even the 
most comprehensive deliberation leading to the most 
momentous choice only fixes a disposition which has to 
be continuously applied in new and unforeseen condi- 
tions, re-adapted by future deliberations. Always our 
old habits and dispositions carry us into new fields. 
We have to be always learning and relearning the mean- 
ing of our active tendencies. Does not this reduce 
moral life to the futile toil of a Sisyphus who is for- 
ever rolling a stone uphill only to have it roll back so 
that he has to repeat his old task? Yes, judged from 
progress made in a control of conditions which shall 
stay put and which excludes the necessity of future de- 
liberations and reconsiderations. No, because contin- 
ual search and experimentation to discover the mean- 
ing of changing activity, keeps activity alive, growing 
in significance. The future situation involved in delib- 
eration is of necessity marked by contingency. What 
it will be in fact remains dependent upon conditions that 
escape our foresight and power of regulation. But 
foresight which draws liberally upon the lessons of past 
experience reveals the tendency, the meaning, of present 
action ; and, once more, it is this present meaning rather 
than the future outcome which counts. Imaginative 
forethought of the probable consequences of a proposed 
act keeps that act from sinking below consciousness into 
routine habit or whimsical brutality. It preserves the 
meaning of that act alive, and keeps it growing in 
depth and refinement of meaning. There is no limit to 


the amount of meaning which reflective and meditative 
habit is capable of importing into even simple acts, 
just as the most splendid successes of the skilful execu- 
tive who manipulates events may be accompanied by an 
incredibly meager and superficial consciousness. 

The reason for dividing conduct into two distinct 
regions, one of expediency and the other of morality, 
disappears when the psychology that identifies ordi- 
nary deliberation with calculation is disposed of. There 
is seen to be but one issue involved in all reflection upon 
conduct: The rectifying of present troubles, the har- 
monizing of present incompatibilities by projecting a 
course of action which gathers into itself the meaning 
of them all. The recognition of the true psychology 
also reveals to us the nature of good or satisfaction. 
Good consists in the meaning that is experienced to 
belong to an activity when conflict and entanglement 
of various incompatible impulses and habits terminate 
in a unified orderly release in action. This human good, 
being a fulfilment conditioned upon thought, differs 
from the pleasures which an animal nature of course 
we also remain animals so far as we do not think hits 
upon accidentally. Moreover there is a genuine dif- 
ference between a false good, a spurious satisfaction, 
and a " true " good, and there is an empirical test for 
discovering the difference. The unification which ends 
thought in act may be only a superficial compromise, 
not a real decision but a postponement of the issue. 
Many of our so-called decisions are of this nature. Or 
it may present, as we have seen, a victory of a tenv 



porarily intense impulse over its rivals, a unity by op- 
pression and suppression, not by coordination. These 
seeming unifications which are not unifications of fact 
are revealed by the event, by subsequent occurrences. 
It is one of the penalties of evil choice, perhaps the chief 
penalty, that the wrong-doer becomes more and more in- 
capable of detecting these objective revelations of 

In quality, the good is never twice alike. It never 
copies itself. It is new every morning, fresh every 
evening. It is unique in its every presentation For it 
marks the resolution of a distinctive complication of 
competing habits and impulses which can never repeat 
itself. Only with a habit rigid to the point of immo- 
bility could exactly the same good recur twice. And 
with such rigid routines the same good does not after 
all recur, for it does not even occur. There is no con- 
sciousness at all, either of good or bad. Rigid habits 
sink below the level of any meaning at all. And since 
we live in a moving world, they plunge us finally against 
conditions to which they are not adapted and so ter- 
minate in disaster. 

To utilitarianism with all its defects belongs the dis- 
tinction of enforcing in an unforgettable way the fact 
that moral good, like every good, consists in a satis- 
faction of the forces of human nature, in welfare, hap- 
piness. To Bentham remains, in spite of all crudities 
and eccentricities, the imperishable renown of forcing 
home to the popular consciousness that " conscience," 
intelligence applied to in moral matters, is too often 


not intelligence but is veiled caprice, dogmatic ipse 
dixitism, vested class interest. It is truly conscience 
only as it contributes to relief of misery and promo- 
tion of happiness. An examination of utilitarianism 
brings out however the catastrophe involved in thinking 
of the good to which intelligence is pertinent as con- 
sisting in future pleasures and pains, and moral re- 
flection as their algebraic calculus. It emphasizes the 
contrast between such conceptions of good and of in- 
telligence, and the facts of human nature according to 
which good, happiness, is found in the present meaning 
of activity, depending upon the proportion, order and 
freedom introduced into it by thought as it discovers 
objects which release and unify otherwise contending 

An adequate discussion of why utilitarianism with its 
just insight into the central place of good, and its 
ardent devotion to rendering morals more intelligent 
and more equitably human took its onesided course (and 
thereby provoked an intensified reaction to transcen- 
dental and dogmatic morals) would take us far afield 
into social conditions and the antecedent history of 
thought. We can deal with only factor, the domination 
of intellectual interest by economic considerations. The 
industrial revolution was bound in any case to give a 
new direction to thought. It enforced liberation from 
other-worldly concerns by fixing attention upon the 
possibility of the betterment of this world through con- 
trol and utilization of natural forces; it opened up 
marvelous possibilities in industry and commerce, and 


new social conditions conducive to invention, ingenuity, 
enterprise, constructive energy and an impersonal habit 
of mind dealing with mechanisms rather than appear- 
ances. But new movements do not start in a new and 
clear field. The context of old institutions and corre- 
sponding habits of thought persisted. The new move- 
ment was perverted in theory because prior established 
conditions deflected it in practice. Thus the new in- 
dustrialism was largely the old feudalism, living in a 
bank instead of a castle and brandishing the check of 
credit instead of the sword. 

An old theological doctrine of total depravity was 
continued and carried over in the idea of an inherent 
laziness of human nature which rendered it averse to 
useful work, unless bribed by expectations of pleasure, 
or driven by fears of pains. This being the " incen- 
tive " to action, it followed that the office of reason is 
only to enlighten the search for good or gain by insti- 
tuting a more exact calculus of profit and loss. Happi- 
ness was thus identified with a maximum net gain of 
pleasures on the basis of analogy with business con- 
ducted for pecuniary profit, and directed by means of 
a science of accounting dealing with quantities of re- 
ceipts and expenses expressed in definite monetary 
units.* For business was conducted as matter of fact 
with primary reference to procuring gain and averting 
loss. Gain and loss were reckoned in terms of units of 

*I owe the suggestion of this mode of interpreting the 
hedonistic calculus of utilitarianism to Dr. Wesley Mitchell. 
See his articles in Journal of Political Economy, vol. 18. Com- 
pare also his article in Political Science Quarterly, vol. 33. 


money, assumed to be fixed and equal, exactly compar- 
able whether loss or gain occurred, while business fore- 
sight reduced future prospects to definitely measured 
forms, to dollars and cents. A dollar is a dollar, past, 
present or future ; and every business transaction, every 
expenditure and consumption of time, energy, goods, 
is, in theory, capable of exact statement in terms of 
dollars. Generalize this point of view into the notion 
that gain is the object of all action; that gain takes the 
form of pleasure; that there are definite, commensu- 
rable units of pleasure, which are exactly offset by units 
of pain (loss), and the working psychology of the 
Benthamite school is at hand. 

Now admitting that the device of money accounting 
makes possible more exact estimates of the consequences 
of many acts than is otherwise possible, and that ac- 
cordingly the use of money and accounting may work a 
triumph for the application of intelligence in daily af- 
fairs, yet there exists a difference in kind between busi- 
ness calculation of profit and loss and deliberation upon 
what purposes to form. Some of these differences are 
inherent and insuperable. Others of them are due to 
the nature of present business conducted for pecuniary 
profit, and would disappear if business were conducted 
primarily for service of needs. But it is important to 
see how in the latter case the assimilation of business 
accounting and normal deliberation would occur. For 
it would not consist in making deliberation identical 
with calculation of loss and gain ; it would proceed in 
the opposite direction. It would make accounting and 


auditing a subordinate factor in discovering the mean- 
ing of present activity. Calculation would be a means 
of stating future results more exactly and objectively 
and thus of making action more humane. Its function 
would be that of statistics in all social science. 

But first as to the inherent difference between de- 
liberation regarding business profit and loss and de- 
liberation about ordinary conduct. The distinction be- 
tween wide and narrow use of reason has already been 
noted. The latter holds a fixed end in view and de- 
liberates only upon means of reaching it. The former 
regards the end-in-view in deliberation as tentative and 
permits, nay encourages the coming into view of con- 
sequences which will transform it and create a new 
purpose and plan. Now business calculation is obvi- 
ously of the kind where the end is taken for granted 
and does not enter into deliberation. It resembles the 
case in which a man has already made his final decision, 
say to take a walk, and deliberates only upon what 
walk to take. His end-in-view already exists; it is not 
questioned. The question is as to comparative advan- 
tages of this tramp or that. Deliberation is not free 
but occurs within the limits of a decision reached by 
some prior deliberation or else fixed by unthinking rou- 
tine. Suppose, however, that a man's question is not 
which path to walk upon, but whether to walk or to 
stay with a friend whom continued confinement has ren- 
dered peevish and uninteresting as a companion. The 
utilitarian theory demands that in the latter case the 
two alternatives still be of the same kind, alike in qual- 


ity, that their only difference be a quantitative one, of 
plus or minus in pleasure. This assumption that all 
desires and dispositions, all habits and impulses, are 
the same in quality is equivalent to the assertion that 
no real or significant conflict among them is possible; 
and hence there is no need of discovering an object and 
an activity which will bring them into unity. It asserts 
by implication that there is no genuine doubt or sus- 
pense as to the meaning of any impulse or habit. Their 
meaning is ready-made, fixed: pleasure. The only 
" problem " or doubt is as to the amount of pleasure 
(or pain) that is involved. 

This assumption does violence to fact. The poign- 
ancy of situations that evoke reflection lies in the fact 
that we really do not know the meaning of the ten- 
dencies that are pressing for action. We have to 
search, to experiment. Deliberation is a work of dis- 
covery. Conflict is acute; one impulse carries us one 
way into one situation, and another impulse takes us 
another way to a radically different objective result. 
Deliberation is not an attempt to do away with this 
opposition of quality by reducing it to one of amount. 
It is an attempt to uncover the conflict in its full scope 
and bearing. What we want to find out is what differ- 
ence each impulse and habit imports, to reveal quali- 
tative incompatibilities by detecting the different 
courses to which they commit us, the different dispo- 
sitions they form and foster, the different situations 
into which they plunge us. 

In short, the thing actually at stake in any serious 


deliberation is not a difference of quantity, but what 
kind of person one is to become, what sort of aelf is in 
the making, what kind of a world is making. This 
is plain enough in those crucial decisions where the 
course of life is thrown into widely different channels, 
where the pattern of life is rendered different and di- 
versely dyed according as this alternative or that is 
chosen. Deliberation as to whether to be a merchant 
or a school teacher, a physician or a politician is not a 
choice of quantities. It is just what it appears to be, 
a choice of careers which are incompatible with one 
another, within each of which definitive inclusions and 
rejections are involved. With the difference in career 
belongs a difference in the constitution of the self, of 
habits of thought and feeling as well as of outward 
action. With it comes profound differences in all fu- 
ture objective relationships. Our minor decisions differ 
in acuteness and range, but not in principle. Our world 
does not so obviously hang upon any one of them ; but 
put together they make the world what it is in meaning 
for each one of us. Crucial decisions can hardly be 
more than a disclosure of the cumulative force of trivial 

A radical distinction thus exists between deliberation 
where the only question is whether to invest money in 
this bond or that stock, and deliberation where the 
primary decision is as to the kind of activity which is 
to be engaged in. Definite quantitative calculation is 
possible in the former case because a decision as to kind 
or direction of action does not have to be made. It has 


been decided already, whether by persistence of habit, 
or prior deliberation, that the man is to be an investor. 
The significant thing in decisions proper, the course 
of action, the kind of a self simply, doesn't enter in; 
it isn't in question. To reduce all cases of judgment of 
action to this simplified and comparatively unimpor- 
tant case of calculation of quantities, is to miss the 
whole point of deliberation.* 

It is another way of saying the same thing to note 
that business calculations about pecuniary gain never 
concern direct use in experience. They are, as such, 
not deliberations about good or satisfaction at all. The 
man who decides to put business activity before all other 
claims whatsoever, before that of family or country or 
art or science, does make a choice about satisfaction 
or good. But he makes it as a man, not as a business 
man. On the other hand, what is to be done with busi- 
ness profit when it accrues (except to invest it in sim- 
ilar undertakings) does not enter at all into a strictly 
business deliberation. Its use, in which alone good or 
satisfaction is found, is left indeterminate, contingent 
upon further deliberation, or else is left matter of rou- 
tine habit. We do not eat money, or wear it, or marry 
it, or listen for musical strains to issue from it. If by 
any chance a man prefers a less amount of money to 
a greater amount, it is not for economic reasons. Pe- 
cuniary profit in itself, in other words, is always strictly 

* So far as I am aware Dr. H. W. Stuart was the first to point 
out this difference between economic and moral valuations in his 
essay in Studies in Logical Theory. 


instrumental, and it is of the nature of this instrument 
to be effective in proportion to size. In choosing with 
respect to it, we are not making a significant choice, 
a choice of ends. 

We have already seen, however, there is something 
abnormal and in the strict sense impossible in mere 
means, in, that is, instruments totally dissevered from 
ends. We may view economic activity in abstraction, 
but it does not exist by itself. Business takes for 
granted non-business uses to which its results are to 
be put. The stimuli for economic activity (in the sense 
in which business means activity subject to monetary 
reckoning) are found in non-pecuniary, non-economic 
activities. Taken by itself then economic action throws 
no light upon the nature of satisfaction and the rela- 
tion of intelligence to it, because the whole question of 
satisfaction is either taken for granted or else is ig- 
nored by it. Only when money-making is itself taken as 
a good does it exhibit anything pertinent to the ques- 
tion. And when it is so taken, then the question is not 
one of future gain but of present activity and its mean- 
ing. Business then becomes an activity carried on for 
its own sake. It is then a career, a continuous oc- 
cupation in which are developed daring, adventure, 
power, rivalry, overcoming of competitors, conspicuous 
achievement which attracts admiration, play of im- 
agination, technical knowledge, skill in foresight and 
making combinations, management of men and goods 
and so on. In this case, it exemplifies what has been 
said about good or happiness as incorporating in itself 


at present the foreseen future consequences that result 
from intelligent action. The problem concerns the 
quality of such a good. 

In short the attempt to assimilate other activities 
to the model of economic activity (defined as a calcu- 
lated pursuit of gain) reverses the state of the facts. 
The " economic man " defined as a creature devoted to 
an enlightened or calculating pursuit of gain is mor- 
ally objectionable because the conception of such a be- 
ing empirically falsifies empirical facts. Love of pe- 
cuniary gain is an undoubted and powerful fact. But 
it and its importance are affairs of social not of psy- 
chological nature. It is not a primary fact which can 
be used to account for other phenomena. It depends 
upon other impulses and habits. It expresses and or- 
ganizes the use to which they are put. It cannot be 
used to define the nature of desire, effort and satisfac- 
tion, because it embodies a socially selected type of de- 
sire and satisfaction. It affords, like steeple-chasing, 
or collecting postage stamps, seeking political office, as- 
tronomical observation of the heavens, a special case of 
desire, effort, and happiness. And like them it is sub- 
ject to examination, criticism and valuation in the light 
of the place it occupies in the system of developing 

The reason that it is so easy and for specific pur- 
poses so useful to select economic activities and subject 
them to separate scientific treatment is because the men 
who engage in it are men who are also more than busi- 
ness men, whose usual habits may be more or less safely 


guessed at. As human beings they have desires and oc- 
cupations which are affected by social custom, expecta- 
tion and admiration. The uses to which gains will be 
put, that is the current scheme of activities into which 
they enter as factors, are passed over only because they 
are so inevitably present. Support of family, of church, 
philanthropic benefactions, political influence, automo- 
biling, command of luxuries, freedom of movement, re- 
spect from others, are in general terms some of the 
obvious activities into which economic activity fits. 
This context of activities enters into the real make-up 
and meaning of economic activity. Calculated pursuit 
of gain is in fact never what it is made out to be when 
economic action is separated from the rest of life, for 
in fact it is what it is because of a complex social en- 
vironment involving scientific, legal, political and do- 
mestic conditions. 

A certain tragic fate seems to attend all intellectual 
movements. That of utilitarianism is suggested in the 
not infrequent criticism that it exaggerated the role of 
rational thought in human conduct, that it assumed 
that everybody is moved by conscious considerations 
and that all that is really necessary is to make the pro- 
cess of consideration sufficiently enlightened. Then it 
is objected that a better psychology reveals that men 
are not moved by thought but rather by instinct and 
habit. Thus a partially sound criticism is employed to 
conceal the one factor in utilitarianism from which we 
ought to learn something ; is used to foster an obscuran- 
tist doctrine of trusting to impulse, instinct or intui- 


tion. Neither the utilitarians nor any one else can ex- 
aggerate the proper office of reflection, of intelligence, 
in conduct. The mistake lay not here but in a false 
conception of what constitutes reflection, deliberation. 
The truth that men are not moved by consideration of 
self-interest, that men are not good judges of where 
their interests lie and are not moved to act by these 
judgments, cannot properly be converted into the belief 
that consideration of consequences is & negligible factor 
in conduct. So far as it is negligible in fact it evinces 
the rudimentary character of civilization. We may 
indeed safely start from the assumption that impulse 
and habit, not thought, are the primary determinants 
of conduct. But the conclusion to be drawn from these 
facts is that the need is therefore the greater for culti- 
vation of thought. The error of utilitarianism is not 
at this point. It is found in its wrong conception of 
what thought, deliberation, is and does. 


Our problem now concerns the nature of ends, that 
is ends-in-view or aims. The essential elements in the 
problem have already been stated. It has been pointed 
out that the ends, objectives, of conduct are those fore- 
seen consequences which influence present deliberation 
and which finally bring it to rest by furnishing an ade- 
quate stimulus to overt action. Consequently ends arise 
and function within action. They are not, as current 
theories too often imply, things lying beyond activity 
at which the latter is directed. They are not strictly 
speaking ends or termini of action at all. They are 
terminals of deliberation, and so turning points in activ- 
ity. Many opposed moral theories agree however in 
placing ends beyond action, although they differ in 
their notions of what the ends are. The utilitarian sets 
up pleasure as such an outside-and-beyond, as some- 
thing necessary to induce action and in which it termi- 
nates. Many harsh critics of utilitarianism have how- 
ever agreed that there is some end in which action termi- 
nates, a final goal. They have denied that pleasure is 
such an outside aim, and put perfection or self-realiza- 
tion in its place. The entire popular notion of 
" ideals " is infected with this conception of some fixed 
end beyond activity at which we should aim. Accord- 
ing to this view ends-in-themselves come before aims. 



We have a moral aim only as our purpose coincides 
with some end-in-itself. We ought to aim at the latter 
whether we actually do or not. 

When men believed that fixed ends existed for all 
normal changes in nature, the conception of similar 
ends for men was but a special case of a general belief. 
If the changes in a tree from acorn to full-grown oak 
were regulated by an end which was somehow immanent 
or potential in all the less perfect forms, and if change 
was simply the effort to realize a perfect or complete 
form, then the acceptance of a like view for human con- 
duct was consonant with the rest of what passed for 
science. Such a view, consistent and systematic, was 
foisted by Aristotle upon western culture and endured 
for two thousand years. When the notion was expelled 
from natural science by the intellectual revolution of 
the seventeenth century, logically it should also have 
disappeared from the theory of human action. But 
man is not logical and his intellectual history is a rec- 
ord of mental reserves and compromises. He hangs on 
to what he can in his old beliefs even when he is com- 
pelled to surrender their logical basis. So the doctrine 
of fixed ends-in-themselves at which human acts are or 
should be directed and by which they are regulated 
if they are regulated at all persisted in morals, and was 
made the cornerstone of orthodox moral theory. The 
immediate effect was to dislocate moral from natural 
science, to divide man's world as it never had been di- 
vided in prior culture. One point of view, one method 
and spirit animated inquiry into natural occurrences; 


a radically opposite set of ideas prevailed about man's 
affairs. Completion of the scientific change begun in 
the seventeenth century thus depends upon a revision 
of the current notion of ends of action as fixed limits 
and conclusions. 

In fact, ends are ends-in-view or aims. They arise 
out of natural effects or consequences which in the 
beginning are hit upon, stumbled upon so far as any 
purpose is concerned. Men like some of the conse- 
quences and dislike others. Henceforth (or till attrac- 
tion and repulsion alter) attaining or averting similar 
consequences are aims or ends. These consequences 
constitute the meaning and value of an activity as it 
comes under deliberation. Meantime of course imagi- 
nation is busy. Old consequences are enhanced, recom- 
bined, modified in imagination. Invention operates. 
Actual consequences, that is effects which have hap- 
pened in the past, become possible future consequences 
of acts still to be performed. This operation of im- 
aginative thought complicates the relation of ends to 
activity, but it does not alter the substantial fact : Ends 
are foreseen consequences which arise in the course of 
activity and which are employed to give activity added 
meaning and to direct its further course. They are in 
no sense ends of action. In being ends of deliberation 
they are redirecting pivots in action. 

Men shoot and throw. At first this is done as an 
" instinctive " or natural reaction to some situation. 
The result when it is observed gives a new meaning to 
the activity. Henceforth men in throwing and shooting 


think_of it in terms of its outcome ; they act intelli- 
gently or have an end. Liking the activity in its ac- 
quired meaning, they not only " take ainT^ when"tney 
thrbwjnsteaj^of^thrpwing at random, but they find or 
make targets at which to aim. This is the origin and 
nature of " goals " of action. They are ways of de- 
fining and deepening the meaning^^activity. Having 
an end or aim is thus a characteristic of jrresent activ- 
ity. It is the means by which an activity becomes 
adapted when otherwise it would be blind and disor- 
derly, or by which it gets meaning when otherwise it 
would be mechanical. In a strict sense an end-in-view 
is a means in present actign ; present action is not a 
means to a remote end. Men do not shoot because tar- 
gets exist, but they set up targets in order that throw- 
ing and shooting may be more effective and significant. 

A mariner does not sail towards the stars, but by 
noting the stars he is aided in conducting his present 
activity of sailing. A port or harbor is his objective, 
but only in the sense of reaching it not of taking pos- 
session of it. The harbor stands in his thought as a 
significant point at which his activity will need re-direc- 
tion. Activity will not cease when the port is attained, 
but merely the present direction of activity. The port 
is as truly the beginning of another mode of activity as 
it is the termination of the present one. The only 
reason we ignore this fact is because it is empirically 
taken for granted. We know without thinking that our 
" ends " are perforce beginnings. But theories of ends 
and ideals have converted a theoretical ignoring which 


is equivalent to practical acknowledgment into an in- 
tellectual denial, and have thereby confused and per- 
verted the nature of ends. 

Even the most important among all the consequences 
of an act is not necessarily its aim. Results which 
are objectively most important may not even be thought 
of at all ; ordinarily a man does not think in connection 
with exercise of his profession that it will sustain him 
and his family in existence. The end-thought-of is 
uniquely important, but it is indispensable to state the 
respect in which it is important. It gives the decisive 
clew to the act to be performed under the existing cir- 
cumstances. It is that particular foreseen object that 
will stimulate the act which relieves existing troubles, 
straightens out existing entanglements. In a tempo- 
rary annoyance, even if only that caused by the singing 
of a mosquito, the thought of that which gives relief 
may engross the mind in spite of consequences much 
more important, objectively speaking. Moralists have 
deplored such facts as evidence of levity. But the rem 
edy, if a remedy be needed, is not found in insisting 
upon the importance of ends in general. It is found in 
a change of the dispositions which make things either 
immediately troublesome or tolerable or agreeable. 

When ends are regarded as literally ends to action 
rather than as directive stimuli to present choice they 
are frozen and isolated. It makes no difference whether 
the " end " is " natural " good like health or a " moral " 
good like honesty. Set up as complete and exclusive, 
as demanding and justifying action as a means to itself, 


it leads to narrowness ; in extreme cases fanaticism, in- 
considerateness, arrogance and hypocrisy. Joshua's 
reputed success in getting the sun to stand still to serve 
his desire is recognized to have involved a miracle. But 
moral theorists constantly assume that the continuous 
course of events can be arrested at the point of a par- 
ticular object; that men can plunge with their own 
desires into the unceasing flow of changes, and 
seize upon some object as their end irrespective of 
everything else. The use of intelligence to discover the 
object that will best operate as a releasing and unifying 
stimulus in the existing situation is discounted. One 
reminds one's self that one's end is justice or charity 
or professional achievement or putting over a deal for 
a needed public improvement, and further questionings 
and qualms are stilled. 

It is customary to suppose that such methods merely 
ignore the question of the morality of the means which 
are used to secure the end desired. Common sense re- 
volts against the maxim, conveniently laid off upon 
Jesuits or other far-away people, that the end justifies 
the means. There is no incorrectness in saying that the 
question of means employed is overlooked in such cases. 
But analysis would go further if it were also pointed 
out that overlooking means is only a device for failing 
to note those ends, or consequences, vhich, if they were 
noted would be seen to be so evil that action would be 
estopped. Certainly nothing can justify or condemn 
means except ends, results. But we have to include 
consequences impartially. Even admitting that lying 


will save a man's soul, whatever that may mean, it 
would still be true that lying will have other conse- 
quences, namely, the usual consequences that follow 
from tampering with good faith and that lead lying to 
be condemned. It is wilful folly to fasten upon some 
single end or consequence which is liked, and permit 
the view of that to blot from perception all other un- 
desired and undesirable consequences. It is like sup- 
posing that when a finger held close to the eye covers 
up a distant mountain the finger is really larger than 
the mountain. Not the end in the singular justifies 
the means ; for there is no such thing as the single all- 
important end. To suppose that there is such an end 
is like working over again, in behalf of our private 
wishes, the miracle of Joshua in arresting the course of 
nature. It is not possible adequately to characterize 
the presumption, the falsity and the deliberate perver- 
sion of intelligence involved in refusal to note the plural 
effects that flow from any act, a refusal adopted in 
order that we may justify an act by picking out that 
one consequence which will enable us to do what we wish 
to do and for which we feel the need of justification. 

Yet this assumption is continually made. It is made 
by implication in the current view of purposes or ends- 
in-view as objects in themselves, instead of means to 
unification and liberation of present conflicting, con- 
fused habits and impulses. There is something almost 
sinister in the desire to label the doctrine that the end 
justifies the means with the name of some one obnoxious 
school. Politicians, especially if they have to do with 


the foreign affairs of a nation and are called states- 
men, almost uniformly act upon the doctrine that the 
welfare of their own country justifies any measure ir- 
respective of all the demoralization it works. Captains 
of industry, great executives in all lines, usually work 
upon this plan. But they are not the original offenders 
by any means. Every man works upon it so far as he 
permits himself to become so absorbed in one aspect of 
what he is doing that he loses a view of its varied con- 
sequences, hypnotizing his attention by consideration 
of just those consequences which in the abstract are 
desirable and slurring over other consequences equally 
real. Every man works upon this principle who be- 
comes over-interested in any cause or project, and who 
uses its desirability in the abstract to justify himself 
in employing any means that will assist him in arriving, 
ignoring all the collateral " ends " of his behavior. It 
is frequently pointed out that there is a type of execu- 
tive-man whose conduct seems to be as non-moral as 
the action of the forces of nature. We all tend to 
relapse into this non-moral condition whenever we want 
any one thing intensely. In general, the identification 
of the end prominent in conscious desire and effort with 
the end is part of the technique of avoiding a reason- 
able survey of consequences. The survey is avoided 
because of a subconscious recognition that it would re- 
veal desire in its true worth and thus preclude action to 
satisfy it or at all events give us an uneasy conscience 
in striving to realize it. Thus the doctrine of the iso- 
lated, complete or fixed end limits intelligent examina- 


tion, encourages insincerity, and puts a pseudo-stamp 
of moral justification upon success at any price. 

Moralistic persons are given to escaping this evil 
by falling into another pit. They deny that conse- 
quences have anything at all to do with the morality 
of acts. Not ends but motives they say justify or con- 
demn acts. The thing to do, accordingly, is to culti- 
vate certain motives or dispositions, benevolence, pur- 
ity, love of perfection, loyalty. The denial of conse- 
quences thus turns out formal, verbal. In reality a 
consequence is set up at which to aim, only it is a sub- 
jective consequence. " Meaning well " is selected as the 
consequence or end to be cultivated at all hazards, an 
end which is all- justify ing and to which everything else 
is offered up in sacrifice. The result is a sentimental 
futile complacency rather than the brutal efficiency of 
the executive. But the root of both evils is the same. 
One man selects some external consequence, the other 
man a state of internal feeling, to serve as the end. The 
doctrine of meaning well as the end is if anything the 
more contemptible of the two, for it shrinks from ac- 
cepting any responsibility for actual results. It is neg- 
ative, self-protective and sloppy. It lends itself to com- 
plete self-deception. 

Why have men become so attached to fixed, external 
ends? Why is it not universally recognized that an end 
is a device of intelligence in guiding action, instrumental 
to freeing and harmonizing troubled and divided ten- 
dencies '( The answer is virtually contained in what was 
earlier said about rigid habits and their effect upon in- 


telligence. Ends are, in fact, literally endless, forever 
coming into existence as new activities occasion new 
consequences. " Endless ends " is a way of saying that 
there are no ends that is no fixed self-enclosed finali- 
ties. While however we cannot actually prevent change 
from occurring we can and do regard it as evil. We 
strive to retain action in ditches already dug. We re- 
gard novelties as dangerous, experiments as illicit and 
deviations as forbidden. Fixed and separate ends re- 
flect a projection of our own fixed and non-interacting 
compartmental habits. We see only consequences which 
correspond to our habitual courses. As we have said, 
men did not begin to shoot because there were ready- 
made targets to aim at. They made things into targets 
by shooting at them, and then made special targets to 
make shooting more significantly interesting. But if 
generation after generation were shown targets they 
had had no part in constructing, if bows and arrows 
were thrust into their hands, and pressure were brought 
to bear upon them to keep them shooting in season and 
out, some wearied soul would soon propound to willing 
listeners the theory that shooting was unnatural, that 
man was naturally wholly at rest, and that targets ex- 
isted in order that men might be forced to be active; 
that the duty of shooting and the virtue of hitting are 
externally imposed and fostered, and that otherwise 
there would be no such thing as a shooting-activity 
that is. morality. 

The doctrine of fixed ends not only diverts attention 
from examination of consequences and the intelligent 


creation of purpose, but, since means and ends are two 
ways of regarding the same actuality, it also renders 
men careless in their inspection of existing conditions. 
An aim not framed on the basis of a survey of those 
present conditions which are to be employed as means 
of its realization simply throws us back upon past hab- 
its. We then do not do what we intended to do but 
what we have got used to doing, or else we thrash about 
in a blind ineffectual way. The result is failure. Dis- 
couragement follows, assuaged perhaps by the thought 
that in any case the end is too ideal, too noble and 
remote, to be capable of realization. We fall back on 
the consoling thought that our moral ideals are too 
good for this world and that we must accustom our- 
selves to a gap between aim and execution. Actual 
life is then thought of as a compromise with the best, 
an enforced second or third best, a dreary exile from 
our true home in the ideal, or a temporary period of 
troubled probation to be followed by a period of un- 
ending attainment and peace. At the same time, as has 
been repeatedly pointed out, persons of a more practi- 
cal turn of mind accept the world " as it is," that is as 
past customs have made it to be, and consider what 
advantages for themselves may be extracted from it. 
They form aims on the basis of existing habits of life 
which may be turned to their own private account. 
They employ intelligence in framing ends and selecting 
and arranging means. But intelligence is confined to 
manipulation ; it does not extend to construction. It is 
the intelligence of the politician, administrator and pro- 


fessional executive the kind of intelligence which has 
given a bad meaning to a word that ought to have a fine 
meaning, opportunism. For the highest task of intelli- 
gence is to grasp and realize genuine opportunity, 

Roughly speaking, the course of forming aims is as 
follows. The beginning is with a wish, an emotional 
reaction against Ih^presenTstate of things and a hope 
for something different. Action fails to connect sat- 
isfactorily with surrounding conditions. Thrown back 
upon itself, it projects itself in an imagination of a 
scene which if it were present would afford satisfaction. 

'his picture is often called an aim, more often an ideal. 

ut in itself it is a fancy which may be only a phan- 
tasy, a dream, a castle in the air. In itself it is a ro- 
mantic embellishment of the present; at its best it is 
material for poetry or the novel. Its natural home is 
not in the future but in the dim past or in some distant 
and supposedly better part of the present world. Every 
such idealized object is suggested by something actually 
experienced, as the flight of birds suggests the libera- 
tion of human beings from the restrictions of slow 
locomotion on dull earth. It becomes an aim or end 
only when it is worked out in terms of concrete condi- 
tions available for its realization, that is in terms of 
" means," 

This transformation depends upon study of the con- 
ditions which generate or make possible the fact ob- 
served to exist already. The fancy of the delight of 
moving at will through the air became an actuality 


only after men carefully studied the way in which a bird 
although heavier than air actually sustains itself in 
air. A fancy becomes an aim, in short, when some past 
sequence of known cause-and-effect is projected into the 
future, and when by assembling its causal conditions 
we strive to generate a like result. We have to fall back 
upon what has already happened naturally without de- 
sign, and study it to see how it happened, which is what 
is meant by causation. This knowledge joined to wish 
creates a purpose. Many men have doubtless dreamed 
of ability to have light in darkness without the trouble 
of oil, lamps and friction. Glow-worms, lightning, the 
sparks of cut electric conductors suggest such a pos- 
sibility. But the picture remained a dream until an 
Edison studied all that could be found out about such 
casual phenomena of light, and then set to work to 
search out and gather together the means for reproduc- 
ing their operation. The great trouble with what 
passes for moral ends and ideals is that they do not 
get beyond the stage of fancy of something agreeable 
and desirable based upon an emotional wish ; very often, 
at that, not even an original wish, but the wish of some 
leader which has been conventionalized and transmitted 
through channels of authority. Every gain in natural 
science makes possible new aims. That is, the discovery 
of how things do occur makes it possible to conceive 
of their happening at will, and gives us a start on se- 
lecting and combining the conditions, the means, to 
command their happening. In technical matters, this 
lesson has been fairly well learned. But in moral mat- 


ters, men still largely neglect the need of studying the 
way in which results similar to those which we desire 
actually happen. Mechanism is despised as of impor- 
tance only in low material things. The consequent 
divorce of moral ends from scientific study of natural 
events renders the former impotent wishes, compensa- 
tory dreams in consciousness. In fact ends or 
consequences are still determined by fixed habit and 
the force of circumstance. The evils of idle dream- 
ing and of routine are experienced in conjunction. 
" Idealism " must indeed come first the imagination of 
some better state generated by desire. But unless ideals 
are to be dreams and idealism a synonym for roman- 
ticism and phantasy-building, there must be a most 
realistic study of actual conditions and of the mode or 
law of natural events, in order to give the imagined or 
ideal object definite form and solid substance to give 
it, in short, practicality and constitute it a working 

The acceptance of fixed ends in themselves is an 
aspect of man's devotion to an ideal of certainty. This 
affection was inevitably cherished as long as men be- 
lieved that the highest things in physical nature are at 
rest, and that science is possible only by grasping im- 
mutable forms and species: in other words, for much 
the greater part of the intellectual history of mankind. 
Only reckless sceptics would have dared entertain any 
idea of ends except as fixed in themselves as long 
as the whole structure of science was erected upon the 
immobile. Behind however the conception of fixity 


whether in science or morals lay adherence to certainty 
of " truth," a clinging to something fixed, born of fear 
of the new and of attachment to possessions. When 
the classicist condemns concession to impulse and holds 
up to admiration the patterns tested in tradition, he 
little suspects how much he is himself affected by un- 
avowed impulses timidity which makes him cling to 
authority, conceit which moves him to be himself the 
authority who speaks in the name of authority, 
possessive impulse which fears to risk acquisition in 
new adventures. Love of certainty is a demand for 
guarantees in advance of action. Ignoring the fact 
that truth can be bought only by the adventure of 
experiment, dogmatism turns truth into an insurance 
company. Fixed ends upon one side and fixed " prin- 
ciples " that is authoritative rules on the other, are 
props for a feeling of safety, the refuge of the timid 
and the means by which the bold prey upon the timid. 


Intelligence is concerned with foreseeing the future 
so that action may have order and direction. It is also 
concerned with principles and criteria of judgment. 
The diffused or wide applicability of habits is reflected 
in the general character of principles: a principle is 
intellectually what a habit is for direct action. As 
habits set in grooves dominate activity and swerve it 
from conditions instead of increasing its adaptability, 
BO principles treated as fixed rules instead of as helpful 
methods take men away from experience. The more 
complicated the situation, and the less we really know 
about it, the more insistent is the orthodox type of 
moral theory upon the prior existence of some fixed 
and universal principle or law which is to be directly 
applied and followed. Ready-made rules available at 
a moment's notice for settling any kind of moral dif- 
ficulty and resolving every species of moral doubt have 
been the chief object of the ambition of moralists. In 
the much less complicated and less changing matters of 
bodily health such pretensions are known as quackery. 
But in morals a hankering for certainty, born of tim- 
idity and nourished by love of authoritative prestige, 
has led to the idea that absence of immutably fixed and 
universally applicable ready-made principles is equiv- 
alent to moral chaos. 



In fact, situations into which change and the unex- 
pected enter are a challenge to intelligence to create 
new principles. Morals must be a growing science if 
it is to be a science at all, not merely because all truth 
has not yet been appropriated by the mind of man, but 
because life is a moving affair in which old moral truth 
ceases to apply. Principles are methods of inquiry and 
forecast which require verification by the event ; and the 
time honored effort to assimilate morals to mathematics 
is only a way of bolstering up an old dogmatic author- 
ity, or putting a new one upon the throne of the old. 
But the experimental character of moral judgments 
does not mean complete uncertainty and fluidity. Prin- 
ciples exist as hypotheses with which to experiment. 
Human history is long. There is a long record of past 
experimentation in conduct, and there are cumulative 
verifications which give many principles a well earned 
prestige. Lightly to disregard them is the height of 
foolishness. But social situations alter; and it is also 
foolish not to observe how old principles actually work 
under new conditions, and not to modify them so that 
they will be more effectual instruments in judging new 
cases. Many men are now aware of the harm done in 
legal matters by assuming the antecedent existence of 
fixed principles under which every new case may be 
brought. They recognize that this assumption merely 
puts an artificial premium on ideas developed under by- 
gone conditions, and that their perpetuation in the 
present works inequity. Yet the choice is not between 
throwing away rules previously developed and sticking 


obstinately by them. The intelligent alternative is to 
revise, adapt, expand and alter them. The problem is 
one of continuous, vital readaptation. 

The popular objection to casuistry is similar to the 
popular objection to the maxim that the end justifies 
the means. It is creditable to practical moral sense, 
.but not to popular logical consistency. For recourse 
to casuistry is the only conclusion which can be drawn 
from belief in fixed universal principles, just as the 
Jesuit maxim is the only conclusion proper to be drawn 
from belief in fixed ends. Every act, every deed is in- 
dividual. What is the sense in having fixed general 
rules, commandments, laws, unless they are such as to 
confer upon individual cases of action (where alone in- 
struction is finally needed) something of their own in- 
fallible certainty? Casuistry, so-called, is simply the 
systematic effort to secure for particular instances of 
conduct the advantage of general rules which are as- 
serted and believed in. By those who accept the notion 
of immutable regulating principles, casuistry ought to 
be lauded for sincerity and helpfulness, not dispraised 
as it usually is. Or else men ought to carry back their 
aversion to manipulation of particular cases, until they 
will fit into the procrustean beds of fixed rules, to the 
point where it is clear that all principles are empirical 
generalizations from the ways in which previous judg- 
ments of conduct have practically worked out. When 
this fact is apparent, these generalizations will be seen 
to be not fixed rules for deciding doubtful cases, but 
instrumentalities for their investigation, methods by 


which the net value of past experience is rendered avail- 
able for present scrutiny of new perplexities. Then it 
will also follow that they are hypotheses to be tested 
and revised by their further working.* 

Every such statement meets with prompt objection. 
We are told that in deliberation rival goods present 
themselves. We are faced by competing desires and 
ends which are incompatible with one another. They 
are all attractive, seductive. How then shall we choose 
among them? We can choose rationally among values, 
the argument continues, only if we have some fixed 
measure of values, just as we decide the respective 
lengths of physical things by recourse to the -fixed foot- 
rule. One might reply that after all there is no fixed 
foot-rule, no fixed foot " in itself " and that the stand- 
ard length or weight of measure is only another special 
portion of matter, subject to change from heat, mois- 
ture and gravitational position, defined only by condi- 
tions, relations. One might reply that the foot-rule is 
a tool which has been worked out in actual prior com- 
parisons of concrete things for use in facilitating fur- 
ther comparisons. But we content ourselves with re- 
marking that we find in this conception of a fixed ante- 
cedent standard another manifestation of the desire to 
escape the strain of the actual moral situation, its 
genuine uncertainty of possibilities and consequences. 

* Among contemporary moralists, Mr. G. E. Moore may be 
cited as almost alone in having the courage of the convictions 
shared by many. He insists that it is the true business of moral 
theory to enable men to arrive at precise and sure judgments in 
concrete cases of moral perplexity. 


We are confronted with another case of the all too 
human love of certainty, a case of the wish for an intel- 
lectual patent issued by authority. The issue after all 
is one of fact. The critic is not entitled to enforce 
against the facts his private wish for a ready-made 
standard which will relieve him from the burden of ex- 
amination, observation and continuing generalization 
and test. 

The worth of this private wish is moreover open to 
question in the light of the history of the development 
of natural science. There was a time when in astron- 
omy, chemistry and biology men claimed that judgment 
of individual phenomena was possible only because the 
mind was already in possession of fixed truths, univer- 
sal principles, pre-ordained axioms. Only by their 
means could contingent, varying particular events be 
truly known. There was, it was argued, no way to 
judge the truth of any particular statement about a 
particular plant, heavenly body, or case of combustion 
unless there was a general truth already in hand with 
which to compare a particular empirical occurrence. 
The contention was successful, that is for a long time 
it maintained its hold upon men's minds. But its ef- 
fect was merely to encourage intellectual laziness, re- 
liance upon authority and blind acceptance of concep- 
tions that had somehow become traditional. The ac- 
tual advance of science did not begin till men broke 
away from this method. When men insisted upon judg- 
ing astronomical phenomena by bringing them directly 
under established truths, those of geometry, they had 


no astronomy, but only a private esthetic construction. 
Astronomy began when men trusted themselves to em- 
barking upon the uncertain sea of events and were will- 
ing to be instructed by changes in the concrete. Then 
antecedent principles were tentatively employed as 
methods for conducting observations and experiments, 
and for organizing special facts: as hypotheses. 

In morals now, as in physical science then, the work 
of intelligence in reaching such relative certainty, or 
tested probability, as is open to man is retarded by the 
false notion of fixed antecedent truths. Prejudice is 
confirmed. Rules formed accidentally or under the 
pressure of conditions long past, are protected from 
criticism and thus perpetuated. Every group and per- 
son vested with authority strengthens possessed power 
by harping upon the sacredness of immutable principle. 
Moral facts, that is the concrete careers of special 
courses of action, are not studied. There is no counter- 
part to clinical medicine. Rigid classifications forced 
upon facts are relied upon. And all is done, as it used 
to be done in natural science, in praise of Reason and 
in fear of the variety and fluctuation of actual 

The hypothesis that each moral situation is unique 
and that consequently general moral principles are in- 
strumental to developing the individualized meaning of 
situations is declared to be anarchic. It is said to be 
ethical atomism, pulverizing the order and dignity of 
morals. The question, again is not what our inherited 
habits lead us to prefer, but where the facts take us. 


But in this instance the facts do not take us into atom- 
ism and anarchy. These things are specters seen by the 
critic when he is suddenly confused by the loss of cus- 
tomary spectacles. He takes his own confusion due to 
loss of artificial aids for an objective situation. Be- 
cause situations in which deliberation is evoked are new, 
and therefore unique, general principles are needed. 
Only an uncritical vagueness will assume that the sole 
alternative to fixed generality is absence of continuity. 
Rigid habits insist upon duplication, repetition, recur- 
rence ; in their case there is accordingly fixed principles. 
Only there is no principle at all, that is, no conscious 
intellectual rule, for thought is not needed. But all 
habit has continuity, and while a flexible habit does not 
secure in its operation bare recurrence nor absolute as- 
surance neither does it plunge us into the hopeless con- 
fusion of the absolutely different. To insist upon 
change and the new is to insist upon alteration of the 
old. In denying that the meaning of any genuine case 
of deliberation can be exhausted by treating it as a 
mere case of an established classification the value of 
classification is not denied. It is shown where its value 
lies, namely, in directing attention to resemblances and 
differences in the new case, in economizing effort in fore- 
sight. To call a generalization a tool is not to say it is 
useless; the contrary is patently the case. A tool is 
something to use. Hence it is also something to be im- 
proved by noting how it works. The need of such not- 
ing and improving is indispensable if, as is the ease with 
moral principles, the tool has to be used in unwonted 


circumstances. Continuity of growth not atomism is 
thus the alternative to fixity of principles and aims. 
This is no Bergsonian plea for dividing the universe 
into two portions, one all of fixed, recurrent habits, and 
the other all spontaneity of flux. Only in such a uni- 
verse would reason in morals have to take its choice be- 
tween absolute fixity and absolute looseness. 

Nothing is more instructive about the genuine value 
of generalization in conduct than the errors of Kant. 
He took the doctrine that the essence of reason is com- 
plete universality (and hence necessity and immuta- 
bility), with the seriousness becoming the professor of 
logic. Applying the doctrine to morality he saw that 
this conception severed morals from connection with 
experience. Other moralists had gone that far before 
his day. But none of them had done what Kant pro- 
ceeded to do : carry this separation of moral principles 
and ideals from experience to its logical conclusion. 
He saw that to exclude from principles all 
connection with empirical details meant to ex- 
clude all reference of any kind to consequences. 
He then saw with a clearness which does his 
logic credit that with such exclusion, reason becomes 
entirely empty: nothing is left except the universality 
of the universal. He was then confronted by the seem- 
ingly insoluble problem of getting moral instruction re- 
garding special cases out of a principle that having 
forsworn intercourse with experience was barren and 
empty. His ingenious method was as follows. Formal 
universality means at least logical identity; it means 


self-consistency or absence of contradiction. Hence 
follows the method by which a would-be truly moral 
agent will proceed in judging the Tightness of any pro- 
posed act. He will ask: Can its motive be made uni- 
versal for all cases? How would one like it if by one's 
act one's motive in that act were to be erected into a 
universal law of actual nature? Would one then be 
willing to make the same choice? 

Surely a man would hesitate to steal if by his choice 
to make stealing the motive of his act he were also to 
erect it into such a fixed law of nature that henceforth 
he and everybody else would always steal whenever 
property was in question. No stealing without prop- 
erty, and with universal stealing also no property; a 
clear self-contradiction. Looked at in the light of 
reason every mean, insincere, inconsiderate motive of 
action shrivels into a private exception which a person 
wants to take advantage of in his own favor, and which 
he would be horrified to have others act upon. It vio- 
lates the great principle of logic that A is A. Kindly, 
decent acts, on the contrary, extend and multiply 
themselves in a continuing harmony. 

This treatment by Kant evinces deep insight into 
the office of intelligence and principle in conduct. But 
it involves flat contradiction of Kant's own original 
intention to exclude consideration of concrete conse- 
quences. It turns out to be a method of recommending 
a broad impartial view of consequences. Our forecast 
of consequences is always subject, as we have noted, to 
the bias of impulse and habit. We see what we want to 


see, we obscure what is unfavorable to a cherished, prob- 
ably unavowed, wish. We dwell upon favoring circum- 
stances till they become weighted with reinforcing con- 
siderations. We don't give opposing consequences half 
a chance to develop in thought. Deliberation needs 
every possible help it can get against the twisting, ex- 
aggerating and slighting tendency of passion and habit. 
To form the habit of asking how we should be willing 
to be treated in a similar case which is what Kant's 
maxim amounts to is to gain an ally for impartial and 
sincere deliberation and judgment. It is a safeguard 
against our tendency to regard our own case as excep- 
tional in comparison with the case of others. " Just 
this once," a plea for isolation; secrecy a plea for 
non-inspection, are forces which operate in every pas- 
sionate desire. Demand for consistency, for " univer- 
sality," far from implying a rejection of all conse- 
quences, is a demand to survey consequences broadly, 
to link effect to effect in a chain of continuity. What- 
ever force works to this end is reason. For reason, let 
it be repeated is an outcome, a function, not a primitive 
force. What we need are those habits, dispositions 
which lead to impartial and consistent foresight of con- 
sequences. Then our judgments are reasonable; we are 
then reasonable creatures. 


Certain critics in sympathy with at least the negative 
contention, the critical side, of such a theory as has 
been advanced, regard it as placing too much emphasis 
upon intelligence. They find it intellectualistic, cold- 
blooded. They say we must change desire, love, aspira- 
tion, admiration, and then action will be transformed. 
A new affection, a changed appreciation, brings with it 
a revaluation of life and insists upon its realization. A 
refinement of intellect at most only figures out better 
ways of reaching old and accustomed ends. In fact we 
are lucky if intellect does not freeze the ardor gfcffin- 
erous desire and paralyze creative endeavor. Intellect 
is critical^ unproductive while desire is generative. In 
its dispassionateness intellect is aloof from humanity 
and its needs. It fosters detachment where sympathy 
is needed. It cultivates contemplation when salvation 
lies in liberating desire. Intellect is analytic, taking 
things to pieces ; its devices are the scalpel and test- 
tube. Affection is synthetic, unifying. This argument 
affords an opportunity for making more explicit those 
respective offices of wish ami thought, in forming ends 
which have already been touched upon. 

First we must undertake an independent analysis 
of desire. It is customary to describe desires in terms 
of their objects, meaning by objects the things which 



figure as in imagination their goals. As the object is 
noble or base, so, it is thought, is desire. In any case, 
emotions rise and cluster about the object. This stands 
out so conspicuously in immediate experience that it 
monopolizes the central position in the traditional psy- 
chological theory of desire. Barring gross self-decep- 
tion or the frustration of external circumstance, the 
outcome, or end-result, of desire is regarded by this 
theory as similar to the end-in-view oriob.j ect con- 
sciously desired. Such, however, is not the case, as 
readily appears from the analysis of deliberation. In 
saying that the actual outcome of desire is different in 
kind from the object upon which desire consciously 
fastens, I do not mean to repeat the old complaint 
about the fallibility and feebleness of mortals in virtue 
of which man's hopes are frustrated and twisted in real- 
ization. The difference is one of diverse dimensions, 
not of degree or amount. 

The object desired and the attainment of desire are 
no more alike than a signboard on the road is like the 
garage to which it points and which it recommends to 
the traveler. Desire is the forward urge of living crea- 
tures. When the push and drive of life meets no ob^_ 
stable, there is nothing which we call desire. There is 
just life-activity. But obstructions present themselves, 
and activity is dispersed and divided. Desire is the out- 
come. It is activity surging forward to break through 
what dams it up. The " object " which then presents 
itself in thought as the goal of desire is the object of 
the environment which, if it were present, would secure 


a re-unification of activity and the restoration of its 
ongoing unity. The end-in-view of desire is that object 
which were it present would link into an organized 
whole activities which are now partial and competing. 
It is no more like the actual end of desire, or the 
resulting state attained, than the coupling of cars 
which have been separated is like an ongoing single 
train. Yet the train cannot go on without the coupling. 
Such statements may seem contrary to common sense. 
The pertinency of the illustration used will be denied. 
No man desires the signboard which he sees, he desires 
the garage, the objective, the ulterior thing. But does 
he? Or is the garage simply a means by which a divided 
body of activities is redintegrated or coordinated? 
Is it desired in any sense for itself, or only because it is 
the means of effective adjustment of a whole set of un- 
derlying habits? While common sense responds to the 
ordinary statement of the end of desire, it also re- 
sponds to a statement that no one desires the object 
for its own sake, but only for what can be got out of it. 
Here is just the point at which the theory that pleasure 
is the real objective of desire makes its appeal. It 
points out that not the physical object nor even its 
possession is really wanted ; that they are only means 
to something personal and experiential. And hence it 
is argued that they are means to pleasure. The pres- 
ent hypothesis offers an alternative: it says that they 
//are means of removal of obstructions to an ongoing, 
//unified system of activities. It is easy to see why an 
objective looms so large and why emotional surge 


and stress gather about it and lift it high above the 
floor of consciousness. The objective is (or is taken to 
be) the key to the situation. If we can attain it, lay 
hold of it, the trick is turned. It is like the piece of 
paper which carries the reprieve a condemned man 
waits for. Issues of life hang upon it. The desired ob- 
ject is in no sense the end or goal of desire, but it is 
the sine qua non of that end. A practical man will fix 
his attention upon it, and not dream about eventuali- 
ties which are only dreams if the objective is not at- 
tained, but which will follow in their own natural course 
if it is reached. For then it becomes a factor in the 
system of activities. Hence the truth in the various so- 
called paradoxes of desire. If pleasure or perfection 
were the true end of desire, it would still be true that 
the way to attainment is not to think of them. For 
object thought of and object achieved exist in different 

In addition to the popular notions that either the ob- 
ject in view or else pleasure is the end of desire, there 
is a less popular theory that quiescence is the actual 
outcome or true terminal of desire. The theory finds 
its most complete practical statement in Buddhism. It 
is nearer the psychological truth than either of the 
other notions. 15 ut it views the attained outcome sim- 
ply in its negative aspect. The end reached quiets the 
clash and removes the discomfort attendant upon di- 
vided and obstructed activity. The uneasiness, unrest, 
characteristic of desire is put to sleep. For this reason, 
some persons resort to intoxicants and anodynes. If 


quiescence were the end and it could be perpetuated, 
this way of removing disagreeable uneasiness would be 
as satisfactory a way out as the way of objective effort. 
But in fact Hesire satjsfied_does notjjring quiescence 
unqualifiedly, but that kind of quiescence which marks 
the recovery of unified activity: the Absence of internal 
strifeamong habits and instincts. Equilibration of ac- 
tivities ra/Eher Than quiescence is the actual result of 
eatisfied desire. This names the outcome positively, 
rather than comparatively and negatively. 

This disparity of dimensions in desire between the 
object thought of and the outcome reached is the ex- 
planation of those self-deceptions which psycho-analy- 
sis has brought home to us so forcibly, but of which it 
gives elaborately cumbrous accounts. The object 
thought of and the outcome never agree. There is no 
self-deceit in this fact. What, then, really happens 
when the actual outcome of satisfied revenge figures in 
thought as virtuous eagerness for justice? Or when 
the tickled vanity of social admiration is masked as 
pure love of learning? The trouble lies in the refusal 
of a person to note the quality of the outcome, not in 
the unavoidable disparity of desire's object and the out- 
come. The honest or integral mind attends to the re- 
sult, and sees what it really is. For no terminal con- 
dition is exclusively terminal. Since it exists in time it 
has consequences as well as antecedents. In being a 
consummation it is also a force having causal poten- 
tialities. It is initial as well as terminal. 

Self-deception originates, in looking at an outcome in 


one direction only as a satisfaction of what has gone 
before, ignoring the fact that what is attained is a state 
of habits which will continue in action and which will 
determine future results. Outcomes of desire are also 
beginnings of new acts and hence are portentous. Sat- 
isfied revenge may feel like justice vindicated; the 
prestige of learning may feel like an enlargement and 
rectification of an objective outlook. But since dif- 
ferent instincts and habits have entered into them, they 
are actually, that is dynamically, unlike. The function 
of moral judgment is to detect this unlikeness. Here, 
again, the belief that we can know ourselves immediately 
is as disastrous to moral science as the corresponding 
idea regarding knowledge of nature was to physical 
science. Obnoxious " subjectivity " of moral judgment 
is due to the fact that the immediate or esthetic quality 
swells and swells and displaces the thought of the active 
potency which gives activity its moral quality, 

We are all natural Jack Homers. If the plum comes 
when we put in and pull out our thumb we attribute 
the satisfactory result to personal virtue. The plum 
is obtained, and it is not easy to distinguish obtaining 
from attaining, acquisition from achieving. Jack Hor- 
tier, Esq., put forth some effort; and results and efforts 
are always more or less incommensurate. For the 
result is always dependent to some extent upon the 
favor or disfavor of circumstance. Why then should 
not the satisfactory plum shed its halo retrospectively 
upon what precedes and be taken as a sign of virtue? 
In this way heroes and leaders are constructed. Such 


is the worship of success. And the evil of success- 
worship is precisely the evil with which we have been 
dealing. " Success " is never merely final or terminal. 
Something else succeeds it, and its successors are influ- 
enced by its nature, that is by the persisting habits 
and impulses that enter into it. The world does not 
stop when the successful person pulls out his plum; 
nor does he stop, and the kind of success he obtains, 
and his attitude toward it, is a factor in what comes 
afterwards. By a strange turn of the wheel, the suc- 
cess of the ultra-practical man is psychologically like 
the refined enjoyment of the ultra-esthetic person. Both 
ignore the eventualities with which every state of ex- 
perience is charged. There is no reason for not enjoy- 
ing the present, but there is every reason for examina- 
tion of the objective factors of what is enjoyed before 
we translate enjoyment into a belief in excellence. 
There is every reason in other words for cultivating an- 
other enjoyment, that of the habit of examining the 
productive potentialities of the objects enjoyed. 

Analysis of desire thus reveals the falsity of theories 

f intelligence^ Im- 

pulse is primary and intelligence is secondary and in 
some sense derivative. There should be no blinking of 
this fact. But recognition of it as a fact exalts in- 
telligence. For thought is not the slave of impulse to 
do its bidding. Impulse does not know what it is after ; 
it cannot give orders, not even if it wants to. It rushes 
blindly into any opening it chances to find. Anything 
that expends it, satisfies it. One outlet is like another 


to it. It is indiscriminate. Its vagaries and excesses 
are the stock theme of classical moralists; and while 
they point the wrong moral in urging the abdication 
of impulse in favor of reason, their characterization of 
impulse is not wholly wrong. What intelligence has to 
do in the service of impulse is to act not as its obedient 
servant but as its clarifier and liberator. And this can 
be accomplished only by a study of the conditions and 
causes, the workings and consequences of the greatest 
possible variety of desires and combinations of desire. 
Intelligence converts desire into plans, systematic plans 
based on assembling facts, reporting events as they hap- 
pen, keeping tab on them and analyzing them. 

Nothing is so easy to Tool as impulse and no one is 
deceived so readily as a person under strong emotion. 
Hence the idealism of man is easily brought to naught. 
Generous impulses are aroused ; there is a vague antici- 
pation, a burning hope, of a marvelous future. Old 
things are to pass speedily away and a new heavens 
and earth are to come into existence. But impulse burn, 
itself up. Emotion cannot be kept at its full tide. Ob- 
stacles are encountered upon which action dashes itself 
into ineffectual spray. Or if it achieves, by luck, a 
transitory success, it is intoxicated, and plumes itself 
on victory while it is on the road to sudden defeat. 
Meantime, other men, not carried away by impulse, use 
established habits and a shrewd cold intellect that ma- 
nipulates them. The outcome is the victory of baser 
<3esire directed by insight and cunning over generous 
clesire which does not know its way. 


The realistic man of the world has evolved a regular 
technique for dealing with idealistic outbursts that 
threaten his supremacy. His aims are low, but he 
knows the means by which they are to be executed. His 
knowledge of conditions is narrow but it is effective 
within its confines. His foresight is limited to results 
that concern personal success, but is sharp, clearcut. 
He has no great difficulty in drafting the idealistic 
desire of others with its vague enthusiasms and its 
cloudy perceptions into canals where it will serve his 
own purposes. The energies excited by emotional ideal- 
ism run into the materialistic reservoirs provided by 
the contriving thought of those who have not surren- 
dered their minds to their sentiment. 

The glorification of affection and aspiration at the 
expense of thought is a survival of romantic optimism. 
It assumes a pre-established harmony between natural 
impulse and natural objects. Only such a harmony 
justifies the belief that generous feeling will find its 
way illuminated by the sheer nobility of its own qual- 
ity. Persons of a literary turn of mind are as subject 
to this fallacy as intellectual specialists arc apt to the 
contrary fallacy that theorizing apart from force of 
impulse and habit will get affairs forward. They tend 
to fancy that things are as pliant to imagination as 
are words, that an emotion can compose affairs as if 
they were materials for a lyric poem. But if the ob- 
jects of the environment were only as plastic as the 
materials of poetic art, men would never have been 
obliged to have recourse to creation in the medium of 


words. We idealize in fancy because our idealizations 
in fact are balked. And while the latter must start 
with imaginative idealizations instigated by release of 
generous impulse, they can be carried through only 
when the hard labor of observation, memory and fore- 
sight weds the vision of imagination to the organized 
efficiencies of habit. 

Sometimes desire means not bare impulse but impulse 
which has sense of an objective. In this case desire and 
thought cannot be opposed, for desire includes thought 
within itself. The question is now how far the work of 
thought has been done, how adequate is its perception 
of its directing object. For the moving force may be 
a shadowy presentiment constructed by wishful hope 
rather than by study of conditions ; it may be an emo- 
tional indulgence rather than a solid plan built upon 
the rocks of actuality discovered by accurate inquiries. 
There is no thought without the impeding of impulse. 
But the obstruction may merely intensify its blind surge 
forward ; or it may divert the force of forward impulse 
into observation of existing conditions and forecast of 
their future consequences. This long way around is 
the short way home for desire. 

No issue of morals is more far-reaching than the one 
herewith sketched. Historically speaking, there is 
point in the attacks of those who speak slightingly of 
science and intellect, and who would limit their moral 
significance to supplying incidental help to execution 
of purposes born of affection. Thought too often is 
specialized in a remote and separate pursuit, or em- 


ployed in a hard way to contrive the instrumentalities 
of " success." Intellect is too often made a tool for a 
systematized apology for things as " they are," that 
is for customs that benefit the class in power, or else 
a road to an interesting occupation which accumulates 
facts and ideas as other men gather dollars, while 
priding itself on its ideal quality. No wonder that at 
times catastrophes that affect men in common are wel- 
comed. For the moment they turn science away from 
its abstract technicalities into a servant of some human 
aspiration ; the hard, chilly calculations of intellect are 
swept away by floods of sympathy and common 

But, alas, emotjan^^without thought is unstable. It 
rises like the tide and subsides like the tide irrespective 
of what it has accomplished. It is easily diverted into 
any side channel dug by old habits or provided by cool 
cunning, or it disperses itself aimlessly. Then comes 
the reaction of disillusionment, and men turn all the 
more fiercely to the pursuit of narrow ends where they 
are habituated to use observation and planning and 
where they have acquired some control of conditions. 
The separation of warm emotion and cool intelligence 
is the great moral tragedy. This division is perpetu- 
ated by those who deprecate science and foresight in 
behalf of affection as it is by those who in the name of 
an idol labeled reason would quench passion. The in- 
\tellect is always inspired by some impulse. Even the 
most case-hardened scientific specialist, the most ab- 
stract philosopher, is moved by some passion. But 


an actuating impulse easily hardens into isolated habit. 
It is unavowed and disconnected. The remedy 
is not lapse of thought, but its quickening and 
extension to contemplate the continuities of existence, 
and restore the connection of the isolated desire to 
the companionship of its fellows. The glorification of 
" will " apart from thought turns out either a com- 
mitment to blind action which serves the purpose of 
those who guide their deeds by narrow plans, or else 
a sentimental, romantic faith in the harmonies of na- 
ture leading straight to disaster. 

In words at least, the association of idealism with 
emotion and impulse has been repeatedly implied in 
the foregoing. The connection is more than verbal. 
Every end that man holds up, every project he enter- 
tains is ideal. It marks something wanted, rather than 
something existing. It is wanted because existence as it 
now is does not furnish it. It carries with itself, then, 
a sense of contrast to the achieved, to the existent. 
It outruns the seen and touched. It is the work of 

faith and hope even when it is the plan of the mosj 
hard-headed "practical " man. But though ideal in 
this sense it is not an ideal. Common sense revolts at 
calling every project, every design, every contrivance of 
cunning, ideal, because common sense includes above all 
in its conception of the ideal the quality of the plan 

Idealistic revolt is blind and like every blind reaction 
sweeps us away. The quality of the ideal is exalted till 
it is something beyond all possibility of definite plan and 


execution. Its sublimity renders it inaccessibly remote. 
An ideal becomes a synonym for whatever is inspiring 
and impossible. Then, since intelligence cannot be 
wholly suppressed, the ideal is hardened by thought 
into some high, far-away object. It is so elevated and 
so distant that it does not belong to this world or to 
experience. It is in technical language, transcenden- 
tal; in common speech, supernatural, of heaven not of 
earth. The ideal is then a goal of final exhaustive, 
comprehensive perfection which can be defined only by 
complete contrast with the actual. Although impos- 
sible of realization and of conception, it is still regarded 
as the source of all generous discontent with actualities 
and of all inspiration to progress. 

This notion of the nature and office of ideals com- 
bines in one contradictory whole all that is vicious in 
the separation of desire and thought. It strives while 
retaining the vagueness of emotion to simulate the 
objective definiteness of thought. It follows the nat- 
ural course of intelligence in demanding an object which 
will unify and fulfil desire, and then cancels the work 
of thought by treating the object as ineffable and un- 
related to present action and experience. It converts 
the surge of present impulse into a future end only to 
swamp the endeavor to clarify this end in a gush of 
unconsidered feeling. It is supposed that the thought 
of the ideal is necessary to arouse dissatisfaction with 
the present and to arouse effort to change it. But in 
reality the ideal is itself the product of discontent with 
conditions. Instead however of serving to organize and 


direct effort, it operates as a compensatory dream. It 
becomes another ready-made world. Instead of pro- 
moting effort at concrete transformations of what ex- 
ists, it constitutes another kind of existence already 
somewhere in being. It is a refuge, an asylum from 
effort. Thus the energy that might be spent in trans- 
forming present ills goes into oscillating flights into a 
far away perfect world and the tedium of enforced re- 
turns into the necessities of the present evil world. 

We can recover the genuine import of ideals and 
idealism only by disentangling this unreal mixture of 
thought and emotion. The action of deliberation, as 
we have seen, consists in selecting some foreseen con- 
sequence to serve as a stimulus to present action. It 
brings future possibilities into the present scene and 
thereby frees and expands present tendencies. But the 
selected consequence is set in an indefinite context of 
other consequences just as real as it is, and many of 
them much more certain in fact. The " ends " that 
are foreseen and utilized mark out a little island in an 
infinite sea. This limitation would be fatal were the 
proper function of ends anything else than to liberate 
and guide present action out of its perplexities and 
confusions. But this service constitutes the sole mean- 
ing of aims and purposes. Hence their slight extent 
in comparison with ignored and unforeseen conse- 
quences is of no import in itself. The " ideal " as it 
stands in popular thought, the notion of a complete 
and exhaustive realization, is remote from the true 
functions of ends, and would only embarrass us if it 


could be embraced in thought instead of being, as it is, 
a comment by the emotions. 

For the sense of an indefinite context of consequences 
from among which the aim is selected enters into the 
present meaning of activity. The " end " is the figured 
pattern at the center of the field through which runs 
the axis of conduct. About this central figuration ex- 
tends infinitely a supporting background in a vague 
whole, undefined and undiscriminated. At most intelli- 
gence but throws a spotlight on that little part of the 
whole which marks out the axis of movement. Even 
if the light is flickering and the illuminated portion 
stands forth only dimly from the shadowy background, 
it suffices if we are shown the way to move. To the rest 
of the consequences, collateral and remote, corresponds 
a background of feeling, of diffused emotion. This 
forms the stuff of the ideal. 

From the standpoint of its definite aim any act is 
petty in comparison with the totality of natural events. 
What is accomplished directly as the outcome of a turn 
which our action gives the course of events is infinites- 
imal in comparison with their total sweep. 

illusion of conceit persuades us that co^mic_ difference 
Jiangs upon even our wisest and most strenuous effort. 
Yet discontent with this limitation is as unreasonble as 
relying upon an illusion of external importance to keep 
ourselves going. In a genuine sense every act is already 
possessed of infinite import. The little part of the 
scheme of affairs which is modifiable by our efforts is 
continuous with the rest of the world. The boundaries 


of our garden plot join it to the world of our neighbors 
and our neighbors' neighbors. That small effort which 
we can put forth is in turn connected with an infinity of 
events that sustain and support it. Thp_nnpsninusnpsa 
of this encompassing infinity of connections is ideal. 
When a sense of the infinite reach of an act physically 
occurring in a small point of space and occupying a 
petty instant of times comes home to us, the meaning of 
a present act is seen to be vast, immeasurable, un- 
thinkable. This ideal is not a goal to be attained. It 
is a significance to be felt, appreciated. Though con- 
sciousness of it cannot become intellectualized (iden- 
tified in objects of a distinct character) yet emotional 
appreciation of it is won only by those willing to think. 
It is the office of art and religion to evoke such ap- 
f fcreciations and intimations ; to enhance and steady them 
i till they are wrought into the texture of our lives. Some 
I philosophers define religious consciousness as beginning 
where moral and intellectual consciousness leave off. In 
the sense that definite purposes and methods shade off 
of necessity into a vast whole which is incapable of ob- 
jective presentation this view is correct. But they have 
falsified the conception by treating the religious con- 
sciousness as something that comes after an experience 
in which striving, resolution and foresight are found. 
To them morality and science are a striving; when striv- 
ing ceases a moral holiday begins, an excursion beyond 
the utmost flight of legitimate thought and endeavor. 
But there is a point in every intelligent activity where 
effort ceases ; where thought and doing fall back upon a 


course of events which effort and reflection cannot 
touch. There is a point in deliberate action where defi- 
nite thought fades into the ineffable and undefinable 
into emotion. If the sense of this effortless and unfath- 
,. |4 omable whole comes only in alternation with the sense of 
1 ^ strain in action and labor in thought, then we spend 
our lives in oscillating between what is cramped and 
enforced and a brief transitory escape. The function 
of religion is then caricatured rather than realized. 
Morals, like war, is thought of as hell, and religion, 
like peace, as a respite. The religious experience is a 
reality in so far as in the midst of effort to foresee 
and regulate future objects we are sustained and ex- 
panded in feebleness and failure by the sense of an 
enveloping whole. Peace in action not after it is the 
contribution of the ideal to conduct. 


Over and over again, one point has recurred for criti- 
cism; the subordination of activity to a result outside 
itself. Whether that goal be thought of as pleasure, as 
virtue, as perfection, as final enjoyment of salvation, 
is secondary to the fact that the moralists who 
have asserted fixed ends have in all their differences 
from one another agreed in the basic idea that present 
activity is but a means. We have insisted that hap- 
piness, reasonableness, virtue, perfecting, are on the 
contrary parts of the present significance of present 
action. Memory of the past, observation of the pres- 
ent, foresight of the future are indispensable. But they 
are indispensable to a present liberation, an enriching 
growth of action. Happiness is fundamental in morals 
only because happiness is not something to be sought 
for, but is something now attained, even in the midst of 
pain and trouble, whenever recognition of our ties with 
nature and with fellow-men releases and informs our 
action. Reasonableness is a necessity because it is the 
perception of the continuities that take action out of 
its immediateness and isolation into connection with 
the past and future. 

Perhaps the criticism and insistence have been too 
incessant. They may have provoked the reader to re- 
action. He may readily concede that orthodox theo- 



ries have been onesided in sacrificing the present to 
future good, making of the present but an onerous 
obligation or a sacrifice endured for future gain. But 
why, he may protest, go to an opposite extreme and 
make the future but a means to the significance of the 
present? Why should the power of foresight and effort 
to shape the future, to regulate what is to happen, be 
slighted ? Is not the effect of such a doctrine to weaken 
putting forth of endeavor in order to make the future 
better than the present? Control of the future may be 
limited in extent, but it is correspondingly precious; 
we should jealously cherish whatever encourages and 
sustains effort to that end. To make little of this pos- 
sibility, in effect, it will be argued, is to decrease the 
care and endeavor upon which progress depends. 

Control of the future is indeed precious in exact 
proportion to its difficulty, its moderate degree of at- 
tainability. Anything that actually tends to make that 
control less than it now is would be a movement back- 
ward into sloth and triviality. But there is a differ- 
ence between future improvement as a result and as a 
direct aim. To make it an aim is to throw away the 
surest means of attaining it, namely attention to the 
full use of present resources in the present situation. 
Forecast of future conditions, scientific study of past 
and present in order that the forecast may be intelli- 
gent, are indeed necessities. Concentration of intel- 
lectual concern upon the future, solicitude for scope and 
precision of estimate characteristic of any well con- 
ducted affair, naturally give the impression that their 


animating purpose is control of the future. But 
thought about future happenings is the only way we 
can judge the present; it is the only way to appraise 
its significance. Without such projection, there can be 
no projects, no plans for administering present ener- 
gies, overcoming present obstacles. Deliberately to 
subordinate the present to the future is to subject the 
comparatively secure to the precarious, exchange re- 
sources for liabilities, surrender what is under control 
to what is, relatively, incapable of control. 

The amount of control which will come into exist- 
ence in the future is not within control. But such 
an amount as turns out to be practicable accrues only 
in consequence of the best possible management of 
present means and obstacles. Dominating intellectual 
pre-occupation with the future is the way by which 
efficiency in dealing with the present is attained. It is 
a way, not a goal. And, upon the very most hopeful 
outlook, study and planning are more important in the 
meaning, the enrichment of content, which they add to 
present activity than is the increase of external con- 
trol they effect. Nor is this doctrine passivistic in 
tendency. What sense is there in increased external 
control except to increase the intrinsic significance of 
living? The future that is foreseen is a future that is 
sometime to be a present. Is the value of that present 
also to be postponed to a future date, and so on indef- 
initely? Or, if the good we are struggling to attain in 
the future is one to be actually realized when that fu- 
ture becomes present, why should not the good of this 


present be equally precious? And is there, again, any 
intelligent way of modifying the future except to at- 
tend to the full possibilities of the present? Scamping 
the present in behalf of the future leads only to render- 
ing the future less manageable. It increases the proba- 
bility of molestation by future events. 

Remarks cast in this form probably seem too much 
like a logical manipulation of the concepts of present 
and future to be convincing. Building a house is a 
typical instance of an intelligent activity. It is an 
activity directed by a plan, a design. The plan is 
itself based upon a foresight of future uses. This fore- 
sight is in turn dependent upon an organized survey 
of past experiences and of present conditions, a recol- 
lection of former experiences of living in houses and an 
acquaintance with present materials, prices, resources, 
etc. Now if a legitimate case of subordination of pres- 
ent to regulation of the future may anywhere be found, 
it is in such a case as this. For a man usually builds 
a house for the sake of the comfort and security, the 
" control," thereby afforded to future living rather than, 
just for the fun or the trouble of building. If in 
such a case inspection shows that, after all, intellectual 
concern with the past and future is for the sake of 
directing present activity and giving it meaning, the 
conclusion may be accepted for other cases. 

Note that the present activity is the only one really 
under control. The man may die before the house is 
built, or his financial conditions may change, or he may 
need to remove to another place. If he attempts to 


provide for all contingencies, he will never do anything; 
if he allows his attention to be much distracted by them, 
he won't do well his present planning and execution. 
The more he considers the future uses to which the house 
will probably be put the better he will do his present 
job which is the activity of building. Control of fu- 
ture living, such as it may turn out to be, is wholly 
dependent upon taking his present activity, seriously 
and devotedly, as an end, not a means. And a man has 
his hands full in doing well what now needs to be done. 
Until men have formed the habit of using intelligence 
fully as a guide to present action they will never find 
out how much control of future contingencies is pos- 
sible. As things are, men so habitually scamp present 
action in behalf of future " ends " that the facts for 
estimating the extent of the possibility of reduction of 
future contingencies have not been disclosed. What a 
man is doing limits both his direct control and his re- 
sponsibility. We must not confuse the act of building 
with the house when built. The latter is a means, not 
a fulfilment. But it is such only because it enters into 
a new activity which is present not future. Life is con- 
tinuous. The act of building in time gives way to the 
acts connected with a domicile. But everywhere the 
good, the fulfilment, the meaning of activity, resides in 
a present made possible by judging existing conditions 
in their connections. 

If we seek for an illustration on a larger scale, educa- 
tion furnishes us with a poignant example. As tradi- 
tionally conducted, it strikingly exhibits a subordina- 


tion of the living present to a remote and precarious 
future. To prepare, to get ready, is its key-note. The 
actual outcome is lack of adequate preparation, of in- 
telligent adaptation. The professed exaltation of the 
future turns out in practice a blind following of tra- 
dition, a rule of thumb muddling along from day to 
day; or, as in some of the projects called industrial 
education, a determined effort on the part of one class 
of the community to secure its future at the expense 
of another class. If education were conducted as a 
process of fullest utilization of present resources, lib- 
erating and guiding capacities that are now urgent, it 
goes without saying that the lives of the young would 
be much richer in meaning than they are now. It also 
follows that intelligence would be kept busy in studying 
all indications of power, all obstacles and perversions, 
all products of the past that throw light upon present 
capacity, and in forecasting the future career of im- 
pulse and habit now active not for the sake of sub- 
ordinating the latter but in order to treat them in- 
telligently. As a consequence whatever fortification 
and expansion of the future that is possible will be 
achieved as it is now dismally unattained. 

A more complicated instance is found in the domi- 
nant quality of our industrial activity. It may be dog- 
matically declared that the roots of its evils are found 
in the separation of production from consumption 
that is, actual consummation, fulfilment. A normal 
case of their relationship is found in the taking of 
food. Food is consumed and vigor is produced. The 


difference between the two is one of directions or di- 
mensions distinguished by intellect. In reality there is 
simply conversion of energy from one form to another 
wherein it is more available of greater significance. 
The activity of the artist, the sportsman, the scientific 
inquirer exemplifies the same balance. Activity should 
be productive. This is to say it should have a bearing 
on the future, should effect control of it. But so far as 
a productive action is intrinsically creative, it has its 
own intrinsic value. Reference to future products and 
future enjoyments is but a way of enhancing percep- 
tion of an immanent meaning. A skilled artisan who 
enjoys his work is aware that what he is making is made 
for future use. Externally his action is one technically 
labeled " production." It seems to illustrate the sub- 
jection of present activity to remote ends. But actu- 
ally, morally, psychologically, the sense of the utility 
of the article produced is a factor in the present sig- 
nificance of action due to the present utilization of 
abilities, giving play to taste and skill, accomplishing 
something now. The moment production is severed 
from immediate satisfaction, it becomes " labor," 
drudgery, a task reluctantly performed. 

Yet the whole tendency of modern economic life has 
been to assume that consumption will take care of itself 
provided only production is grossly and intensely at- 
tended to. Making things is frantically accelerated; 
and every mechanical device used to swell the senseless 
bulk. As a result most workers find no replenishment, 
no renewal and growth of mind, no fulfilment in work. 


They labor to get mere means of later satisfaction. 
This when procured is isolated in turn from production 
and is reduced to a barren physical affair or a sensuous 
compensation for normal goods denied. Meantime the 
fatuity of severing production from consumption, from 
present enriching of life, is made evident by economic 
crises, by periods of unemployment alternating with 
periods of exercise, work or " over-production." Pro- 
duction apart from fulfilment becomes purely a matter 
of quantity ; for distinction, quality, is a matter of pres- 
ent meaning. Esthetic elements being excluded, the 
mechanical reign. Production lacks criteria ; one thing 
is better than another if it can be made faster or in 
greater mass. Leisure is not the nourishment of mind 
in work, nor a recreation; it is a feverish hurry for 
diversion, excitement, display, otherwise there is no 
leisure except a sodden torpor. Fatigue due for some 
to monotony and for others to overstrain in main- 
taining the pace is inevitable. Socially, the separation 
of production and consumption, means and ends, is the 
root of the most profound division of classes. Those 
who fix the " ends " for production are in control, those 
who engage in isolated productive activity are the sub- 
ject-class. But if the latter are oppressed the former 
are not truly free. Their consumptions are acci- 
dental ostentation and extravagance, not a normal con- 
summation or fulfilment of activity. The remainder of 
their lives is spent in enslavement to keeping the ma- 
chinery going at an increasingly rapid rate. 

Meantime class struggle grows between those whose 


productive labor is enforced by necessity and those who 
are privileged consumers. And the exaggeration of 
production due to its isolation from ignored consump- 
tion so hypnotizes attention that even would-be re- 
formers, like Marxian socialists, assert that the entire 
social problem focuses at the point of production. 
Since this separation of means from ends signifies an 
erection of means into ends, it is no wonder that a 
" materialistic conception of history " emerges. It is 
not an invention of Marx ; it is a record of fact so far 
as the separation in question obtains. For practicable 
idealism is found only in a fulfilment, a consumption 
which is a replenishing, growth, renewal of mind and 
body. Harmony of social interests is found in the 
wide-spread sharing of activities significant in them- 
selves, that is to say, at the point of consumption.* But 
the forcing of production apart from consumption leads 
to the monstrous belief that class-struggle civil war is 
a means of social progress, instead of a register of the 
barriers to its attainment. Yet here too the Marxian 
reads aright the character of most current economic 

The history of economic activity thus exemplifies the 
moral consequences of the separation of present activ- 
ity and future " ends " from each other. It also em- 
bodies the difficulty of the problem the tax placed by 
it upon thought and good will. For the professed ideal- 
ist and the hard-headed materialist or " practical " 
man, have conspired together to sustain this situation. 

* Acknowledgment is due " The Social Interpretation of His- 
tory" by Maurice Williams. 


The " idealist " sets up as the ideal not fullness of 
meaning of the present but a remote goal. Hence the 
present is evacuated of meaning. It is reduced to being 
a mere external instrument, an evil necessity due to the 
distance between us and significant valid satisfaction. 
Appreciation, joy, peace in present activity are sus- 
pect. They are regarded as diversions, temptations, 
unworthy relaxations. Then since human nature must 
have present realization, a sentimental, romantic en- 
joyment of the ideal becomes a substitute for intelli- 
gent and rewarding activity. The utopia cannot be 
realized in fact but it may be appropriated in fantasy 
and serve as an anodyne to blunt the sense of a misery 
which after all endures. Some private key to a present 
entering upon remote and superior bliss is sought, just 
as the evangelical enjoys a complacent and superior 
sense of a salvation unobtained by fellow mortals. Thus 
the normal demand for realization, for satisfaction in 
the present, is abnormally met. 

Meantime the practical man wants something defi- 
nite, tangible and presumably obtainable for which to 
work. He is looking after " a good thing " as the aver- 
age man is looking after a " good time," that natural 
caricature of an intrinsically significant activity. Yet 
his activity is impractical. He is looking for satisfac- 
tion somewhere else than where it can be found. In his 
utopian search for a future good he neglects the only 
place where good can be found. He empties present 
activity of meaning by making it a mere instrumental- 
ity. When the future arrives it is only after all another 


despised present. By habit as well as by definition it 
is still a means to something which has yet to come. 
Again human nature must have its claims satisfied, and 
sensuality is the inevitable recourse. Usually a com- 
promise is worked out, by which a man for his working- 
hours accepts the philosophy of activity for some fu- 
ture result, while at odd leisure times he enters by con- 
ventionally recognized channels upon an enjoyment of 
" spiritual " blessings and " ideal " refinements. The 
problem of serving God and Mammon is thus solved. 
The situation exemplifies the concrete meaning of the 
separation of means from ends which is the intellectual 
reflex of the divorce of theory and practice, intelligence 
and habit, foresight and present impulse. Moralists 
have spent time and energy in showing what happens 
when appetite, impulse, is indulged without reference to 
consequences and reason. But they have mostly ignored 
the counterpart evils of an intelligence that conceives 
ideals and goods which do not enter into present impulse 
and habit. The life of reason has been specialized, 
romanticized, or made a heavy burden. This situation 
embodies the import of the problem of actualizing the 
place of intelligence in conduct. 

Our whole account of the place of intelligence in con- 
duct is exposed however to the charge of being itself 
romantic, a compensatory idealization. The history of 
mind is a record of intellect which registers, with more 
or less inaccuracy, what has happened after it has hap- 
pened. The crisis in which the intervention of fore- 
seeing and directing mind is needed passes unnoted, 


with attention directed toward incidentals and irrele- 
vancies. The work of intellect is post mortem. The 
rise of social science, it will be pointed out, has in- 
creased the amount of registering that occurs. Social 
post mortems occur much more frequently than they 
used to. But one of the things which the unbiased mind 
will register is the impotency of discussion, analysis 
and reporting in modifying the course of events. The 
latter goes its way unheeding. The reply that this 
condition of matters shows not the impotency of intel- 
ligence but that what passes for science is not science 
is too easy a retort to be satisfactory. We must have 
recourse to some concrete facts or surrender our doc- 
trine just at the moment when we have formulated it. 
Technical affairs give evidence that the work of in- 
quiry, reporting an analysis is not always ineffectual. 
The development of a chain of " nation-wide " tobacco 
shops, of a well managed national telephone system, of 
the extension of the service of an electric-light plant 
testify to the fact that study, reflection and the forma- 
tion of plans do in some instances determine a course 
of events. The effect is seen in both engineering man- 
agement and in national commercial expansion. Such 
potency however, it must be admitted, is limited to just 
those matters that are called technical in contrast with 
the larger affairs of humanity. But if we seek, as we 
should, for a definition of " technical," we can hardly 
find any save one that goes in a circle : Affairs are tech- 
nical in which observation, analysis and intellectual or- 
ganization are determining factors. Is the conclusion 


to be drawn a conviction that our wider social interests 
are so different from those in which intelligence is a 
directing factor that in the former science must always 
remain a belated visitor coming upon the scene after 
matters are settled? No, the logical conclusion is that 
as yet we have no technique in important economic, 
political and international affairs. Complexity of con- 
ditions render the difficulties in the way of the develop- 
ment of a technique enormous. It is imaginable they 
will never be overcome. But our choice is between the 
development of a technique by which intelligence will 
become an intervening partner and a continuation of a 
regime of accident, waste and distress. 



CONDUCT when distributed under heads like habit, im- 
pulse and intelligence gets artificially shredded. In 
discussing each of these topics we have run into the 
others. We conclude, then, with an attempt to gather 
together some outstanding considerations about con- 
duct as a whole. 

The foremost conclusion is that morals has to do 
with all activity into which alternative possibilities 
enter. For wherever they enter a difference between 
better and worse arises. Reflection upon action means 
uncertainty and consequent need of decision as to which 
course is better. The better is the good; the best is 
not better than the good but is simply the discovered 
good. Comparative and superlative degrees are only 
paths to the positive degree of action. The worse or 
evil is a rejected good. In deliberation and before 
choice no evil presents itself as evil. Until it is rejected, 
it is a competing good. After rejection, it figures not 
as a lesser good, but as the bad of that situation. 



Actually then only deliberate action, conduct into 
which reflective choice enters, is distinctively moral, for 
only then does there enter the question of better and 
worse. Yet it is a perilous error to draw a hard and 
fast line between action into which deliberation and 
choice enter and activity due to impulse and matter-of- 
fact habit. One of the consequences of action is to in- 
volve us in predicaments where we have to reflect upon 
things formerly done as matter of course. One of the 
chief problems of our dealings with others is to induoe 
them to reflect upon affairs which they usually perform 
from unreflective habit. On the other hand, every re- 
flective choice tends to relegate some conscious issue 
into a deed or habit henceforth taken for granted and 
not thought upon. Potentially therefore every and 
any act is within the scope of morals, being a candidate 
for possible judgment with respect to its better-or- 
worse quality. It thus becomes one of the most per- 
plexing problems of reflection to discover just how far 
to carry it, what to bring under examination and what 
to leave to unscrutinized habit. Because there is no 
final recipe by which to decide this question all moral 
judgment is experimental and subject to revision by its 

The recognition that conduct covers every act that 
is judged with reference to better and worse and that 
the need of this judgment is potentially coextensive 
with all portions of conduct, saves us from the mistake 
which makes morality a separate department of life. 
Potentially conduct is one hundred per cent of our acts. 


Hence we must decline to admit theories which identify 
morals with the purification of motives, edifying char- 
acter, pursuing remote and elusive perfection, obeying 
supernatural command, acknowledging the authority of 
duty. Such notions have a dual bad effect. First they 
get in the way of observation of conditions and con- 
sequences. They divert thought into side issues. Sec- 
ondly, while they confer a morbid exaggerated quality 
upon things which are viewed under the aspect of mo- 
rality, they release the larger part of the acts of life 
from serious, that is moral, survey. Anxious solicitude 
for the few acts which are deemed moral is accompanied 
by edicts of exemption and baths of immunity for most 
acts. A moral moratorium prevails for everyday 

When we observe that morals is at home wherever 
considerations of the worse and better are involved, we 
are committed to noting that morality is a continuing 
process not a fixed achievement. Morals means growth 
of conduct in meaning; at least it means that kind of 
expansion in meaning which is consequent upon obser- 
vations of the conditions and outcome of conduct. It 
is all one with growing. Growing and growth are the 
same fact expanded in actuality or telescoped in 
thought. In the largest sense of the word, morals is 
education. It is learning the meaning of what we are 
about and employing that meaning in action. The 
good, satisfaction, " end," of growth of present action 
in shades and scope of meaning is the only good within 
our control, and the only one, accordingly, for which 


responsibility exists. The rest is luck, fortune. And 
the tragedy of the moral notions most insisted upon by 
the morally self-conscious is the relegation of the only 
good which can fully engage thought, namely present 
meaning of action, to the rank of an incident of a re- 
mote good, whether that future good be defined as 
pleasure, or perfection, or salvation, or attainment of 
virtuous character. 

" Present " activity is not a sharp narrow knife- 
blade in time. The present is complex, containing 
within itself a multitude of habits and impulses. It is 
enduring, a course of action, a process including mem- 
ory, observation and foresight, a pressure forward, a 
glance backward and a look outward. It is of moral 
moment because it marks a transition in the direction 
of breadth and clarity of action or in that of triviality 
and confusion. Progress is present reconstruction add- 
ing fullness and distinctness of meaning, and retrogres- 
sion is a present slipping away of significance, deter- 
minations, grasp. Those who hold that progress can 
be perceived and measured only by reference to a remote 
goal, first confuse meaning with space, and then treat 
spatial position as absolute, as limiting movement in- 
stead of being bounded in and by movement. There are 
plenty of negative elements, due to conflict, entangle- 
ment and obscurity, in most of the situations of life, 
and we do not require a revelation of some supreme 
perfection to inform us whether or no we are making 
headway in present rectification. We move on from 
the worse and into, not just towards, the better, which 


is authenticated not by comparison with the foreign but 
in what is indigenous. Unless progress is a present 
reconstructing, it is nothing; if it cannot be told by 
qualities belonging to the movement of transition it 
can never be judged. 

Men have constructed a strange dream-world when 
they have supposed that without a fixed ideal of a re- 
mote good to inspire them, they have no inducement to 
get relief from present troubles, no desires for libera- 
tion from what oppresses and for clearing-up what 
confuses present action. The world in which we could 
get enlightenment and instruction about the direction 
in which we are moving only from a vague conception of 
an unattainable perfection would be totally unlike our 
present world. Sufficient unto the day is the evil 
thereof. Sufficient it is to stimulate us to remedial 
action, to endeavor in order to convert strife into har- 
mony, monotony into a variegated scene, and limitation 
into expansion. The converting is progress, the only 
progress conceivable or attainable by man. Hence 
every situation has its own measure and quality of 
progress, and the need for progress is recurrent, con- 
stant. If it is better to travel than to arrive, it is be- 
cause traveling is a constant arriving, while arrival 
that precludes further traveling is most easily attained 
by going to sleep or dying. We find our clews to di- 
rection in the projected recollections of definite ex- 
perienced goods not in vague anticipations, even when 
we label the vagueness perfection, the Ideal, and pro- 
ceed to manipulate its definition with dry dialectic logic. 


Progress means increase of present meaning, which in- 
volves multiplication of sensed distinctions as well as 
harmony, unification. This statement may, perhaps, be 
made generally, in application to the experience of 
humanity. If history shows progress it can hardly be 
found elsewhere than in this complication and extension 
of the significance found within experience. It is clear 
that such progress brings no surcease, no immunity 
from perplexity and trouble. If we wished to trans- 
mute this generalization into a categorical imperative 
we should say : " So act as to increase the meaning of 
present experience." But even then in order to get in- 
struction about the concrete quality of such increased 
meaning we should have to run away from the law and 
study the needs and alternative possibilities lying with- 
in a unique and localized situation. The imperative, 
like everything absolute, is sterile. Till men give up 
the search for a general formula of progress they will 
not know where to look to find it. 

A business man proceeds by comparing today's lia- 
bilities and assets with yesterday's, and projects plans 
for tomorrow by a study of the movement thus indi- 
cated in conjunction with study of the conditions of 
the environment now existing. It is not otherwise with 
the business of living. The future is a projection of the 
subject-matter of the present, a projection which is not 
arbitrary in the extent in which it divines the movement 
of the moving present. The physician is lost who would 
guide his activities of healing by building up a picture 
of perfect health, the same for all and in its nature 


complete and self-enclosed once for all. He employs 
what he has discovered about actual cases of good 
health and ill health and their causes to investigate the 
present ailing individual, so as to further his recover- 
ing; recovering, an intrinsic and living process rather 
than recovery, which is comparative and static. Moral 
theories, which however have not remained mere theories 
but which have found their way into the opinions of 
the common man, have reversed the situation and made 
the present subservient to a rigid yet abstract future. 

The ethical import of the doctrine of evolution is 
enormous. But its import has been misconstrued be- 
cause the doctrine has been appropriated by the very 
traditional notions which in truth it subverts. It has 
been thought that the doctrine of evolution means the 
complete subordination of present change to a future 
goal. It has been constrained to teach a futile dogma 
of approximation, instead of a gospel of present 
growth. The usufruct of the new science has been 
seized upon by the old tradition of fixed and external 
ends. In fact evolution means continuity of change; 
and the fact that change may take the form of pres- 
ent growth of complexity and interaction. Significant 
stages in change are found not in access of fixity of 
attainment but in those crises in which a seeming fixity 
of habits gives way to a release of capacities that have 
not previously functioned: in times that is of readjust- 
ment and redirection. 

No matter what the present success in straightening 
out difficulties and harmonizing conflicts, it is certain 


that problems will recur in the future in a new form 
or on a different plane. Indeed every genuine accom- 
plishment instead of winding up an affair and enclos- 
ing it as a jewel in a casket for future contemplation, 
complicates the practical situation. It effects a new 
distribution of energies which have henceforth to be 
employed in ways for which past experience gives no 
exact instruction. Every important satisfaction of an 
old want creates a new one ; and this new one has to 
enter upon an experimental adventure to find its sat- 
isfaction. From the side of what has gone before 
achievement settles something. From the side of what 
comes after, it complicates, introducing new problems, 
unsettling factors. There is something pitifully juven- 
ile in the idea that " evolution," progress, means a 
definite sum of accomplishment which will forever stay 
done, and which by an exact amount lessens the amount 
still to be done, disposing once and for all of just so 
many perplexities and advancing us just so far on our 
road to a final stable and unperplexed goal. Yet the 
typical nineteenth century, mid-victorian conception of 
evolution was precisely a formulation of such a consum- 
mate juvenilism. 

If the true ideal is that of a stable condition free 
from conflict and disturbance, then there are a number 
of 1heorio> whose claims are superior to those of the 
popular doctrine of evolution. Logic points rather in 
the direction of Rousseau and Tolstoi who would recur 
to some primitive simplicity, who would return from 
complicated and troubled civilization to a state of na- 


ture. For certainly progress in civilization has not only 
meant increase in the scope and intricacy of problems 
to be dealt with, but it entails increasing instability. 
For in multiplying wants, instruments and possibilities, 
it increases the variety of forces which enter into re- 
lations with one another and which have to be intelli- 
gently directed. Or again, Stoic indifference or Bud- 
dhist calm have greater claims. For, it may be argued, 
since all objective achievement only complicates the sit- 
uation, the victory of a final stability can be secured 
only by renunciation of desire. Since every satisfac- 
tion of desire increases force, and this in turn creates 
new desires, withdrawal into an inner passionless state, 
indifference to action and attainment, is the sole road 
to possession of the eternal, stable and final reality. 
Again, from the standpoint of definite approximation 
to an ultimate goal, the balance falls heavily on the side 
of pessimism. The more striving the more attainments, 
perhaps; but also assuredly the more needs and the 
more disappointments. The more we do and the more 
we accomplish, the more the end is vanity and vexa- 
tion. From the standpoint of attainment of good that 
stays put, that constitutes a definite sum performed 
which lessens the amount of effort required in order to 
reach the ultimate goal of final good, progress is an 
illusion. But we are looking for it in the wrong place. 
The world war is a bitter commentary on the nineteenth 
century misconception of moral achievement a mis- 
conception however which it only inherited from the 
traditional theory of fixed ends, attempting to bolster 


up that doctrine with aid from the " scientific " theory 
of evolution. The doctrine of progress is not yet bank- 
rupt. The bankruptcy of the notion of fixed goods to 
be attained and stably possessed may possibly be the 
means of turning the mind of man to a tenable theory 
of progress to attention to present troubles and pos- 

Adherents of the idea that betterment, growth in 
goodness, consists in approximation to an exhaustive, 
stable, immutable end or good, have been compelled to 
recognize the truth that in fact we envisage the good 
in specific terms that are relative to existing needs, and 
that the attainment of every specific good merges in- 
sensibly into a new condition of maladjustment with its 
need of a new end and a renewed effort. But they 
have elaborated an ingenious dialectical theory to ac- 
count for the facts while maintaining their theory in- 
tact. The goal, the ideal, is infinite ; man is finite, sub- 
ject to conditions imposed by space and time. The 
specific character of the ends which man entertains 
and of the satisfaction he achieves is due therefore 
precisely to his empirical and finite nature in its con- 
trast with the infinite and complete character of the 
true reality, the end. Consequently when man reaches 
what he had taken to be the destination of his journey 
he finds that he has only gone a piece on the road. In- 
finite vistas still stretch before him. Again he sets his 
mark a little way further ahead, and again when he 
reaches the station set, he finds the road opening before 
him in unexpected ways, and sees new distant objects 


beckoning him forward. Such is the popular doctrine. 
By some strange perversion this theory passes for 
moral idealism. An office of inspiration and guidance is 
attributed to the thought of the goal of ultimate com- 
pleteness or perfection. As matter of fact, the idea 
sincerely held brings discouragement and despair not 
inspiration or hopefulness. There is something either 
ludicrous or tragic in the notion that inspiration to 
continued progress is had in telling man that no matter 
what he does or what he achieves, the outcome is negli- 
gible in comparison with what he set out to achieve, that 
every endeavor he makes is bound to turn out a failure 
compared with what should be done, that every at- 
tained satisfaction is only forever bound to be only a 
disappointment. The honest conclusion is pessimism. 
All is vexation, and the greater the effort the greater 
the vexation. But the fact is that it is not the nega- 
tive aspect of an outcome, its failure to reach infinity, 
which renews courage and hope. Positive attainment, 
actual enrichment of meaning and powers opens new 
vistas and sets new tasks, creates new aims and stim- 
ulates new efforts. The facts are not such as to yield 
unthinking optimism and consolation ; for they render 
it impossible to rest upon attained goods. New strug- 
gles and failures are inevitable. The total scene of 
action remains as before, only for us more complex, 
and more subtly unstable. But this very situation is a 
consequence of expansion, not of failures of power, and 
when grasped and admitted it is a challenge to intelli- 
gence. Instruction in what to do next can never come 


from an infinite goal, which for us is bound to be empty. 
It can be derived only from study of the deficiencies, 
irregularities and possibilities of the actual situation. 
In any case, however, arguments about pessimism and 
optimism based upon considerations regarding fixed 
attainment of good and evil are mainly literary in qual- 
ity. Man continues to live because he is a living crea- 
ture not because reason convinces him of the certainty 
or probability of future satisfactions and achievements. 
He is instinct with activities that carry him on. Indi- 
viduals here and there cave in, and most individuals 
sag, withdraw and seek refuge at this and that point. 
But man as man still has the dumb pluck of the animal. 
He has endurance, hope, curiosity, eagerness, love of 
action. These traits belong to him by structure, not by 
taking thought. Memory of past and foresight of fu- 
ture convert dumbness to some degree of articulate- 
ness. They illumine curiosity and steady courage. 
Then when the future arrives with its inevitable dis- 
appointments as well as fulfilments, and with new 
sources of trouble, failure loses something of its fatal- 
ity, and suffering yields fruit of instruction not of bit- 
terness. Humility is more demanded at our moments 
of triumph than at those of failure. For humility is 
not a caddish self-depreciation. It is the sense of our 
slight inability even with our best intelligence and ef- 
fort to command events; a sense of our dependence 
upon forces that go their way without our wish and 
plan. Its purport is not to relax effort but to make 
us prize every opportunity of present growth. In 


morals, the infinitive and the imperative develop from 
the participle, present tense. Perfection means per- 
fecting, fulfilment, fulfilling, and the good is now or 

Idealistic philosophies, those of Plato, Aristotle, Spi- 
noza, like the hypothesis now offered, have found the 
good in meanings belonging to a conscious life, a life 
of reason, not in external achievement. Like it, they 
have exalted the place of intelligence in securing ful- 
filment of conscious life. These theories have at least 
not subordinated conscious life to external obedience, 
not thought of virtue as something different from ex- 
cellence of life. But they set up a transcendental mean- 
ing and reason, remote from present experience and 
opposed to it; or they insist upon a special form of 
meaning and consciousness to be attained by peculiar 
modes of knowledge inaccessible to the common man, 
involving not continuous reconstruction of ordinary 
experience, but its wholesale reversal. They have 
treated regeneration, change of heart, as wholesale and 
self-enclosed, not as continuous. 

The utilitarians also made good and evil, right and 
wrong, matters of conscious experience. In addition 
they brought them down to earth, to everyday experi- 
ence. They strove to humanize other-worldly goods. 
But they retained the notion that the good is future, 
and hence outside the meaning of present activity. In 
so far it is sporadic, exceptional, subject to accident, 
passive, an enjoyment not a joy, something hit upon, 
not a fulfilling. The future end is for them not to 


remote from present action as the Platonic realm of 
ideals, or as the Aristotelian rational thought, or the 
Christian heaven, or Spinoza's conception of the uni- 
versal whole. But still it is separate in principle and 
in fact from present activity. The next step is to iden- 
tify the sought for good with the meaning of our 
impulses and our habits, and the specific moral good 
or virtue with learning this meaning, a learning that 
takes us back not into an isolated self but out into the 
open-air world of objects and social ties, terminating 
in an increment of present significance. 

Doubtless there are those who will think that we 
thus escape from remote and external ends only to fall 
into an Epicureanism which teaches us to subordinate 
everything else to present satisfactions. The hypothe- 
sis preferred may seem to some to advise a subjective, 
self-centered life of intensified consciousness, an esthet- 
ically dilettante type of egoism. For is not its lesson 
that we should concentrate attention, each upon the 
consciousness accompanying his action so as to refine 
and develop it? Is not this, like all subjective morals, 
an anti-social doctrine, instructing us to subordinate 
the objective consequences of our acts, those which pro- 
mote the welfare of others, to an enrichment of our 
private conscious lives? 

It can hardly be denied that as compared with the 
dogmas against which it reacted there is an element of 
truth in Epicureanism. It strove to center attention 
upon what is actually within control and to find the 
good in the present instead of in a contingent uncer- 


tain future. The trouble with it lies in its account of 
present good. It failed to connect this good with the 
full reach of activities. It contemplated good of with- 
drawal rather than of active participation. That is 
to say, the objection to Epicureanism lies in its con- 
ception of what constitutes present good, not in its 
emphasis upon satisfaction as at present. The same re- 
mark may be made about every theory which recognizes 
the individual self. If any such theory is objection- 
able, the objection is against the character or quality 
assigned to the self. Of course an individual is the 
bearer or carrier of experience. What of that? Every- 
thing depends upon the kind of experience that centers 
in him. Not the residence of experience counts, but its 
contents, what's in the house. The center is not in the 
abstract amenable to our control, but what gathers 
about it is our affair. We can't help being individual 
selves, each one of us. If selfhood as such is a bad 
thing, the blame lies not with the self but with the uni- 
verse, with providence. But in fact the distinction be- 
tween a selfishness with which we find fault and an 
unselfishness which we esteem is found in the quality 
of the activities which proceed from and enter into the 
self, according as they are contractive, exclusive, or 
expansive, outreaching. Meaning exists for some self, 
but this truistic fact doesn't fix the quality of any par- 
ticular meaning. It may be such as to make the self 
small, or such as to exalt and dignify the self. It is 
as impertinent to decry the worth of experience be- 
cause it is connected with a self as it is fantastic to 


idealize personality just as personality aside from the 
question what sort of a person one is. 

Other persons are selves too. If one's own present 
experience is to be depreciated in its meaning because 
it centers in a self, why act for the welfare of others? 
Selfishness for selfishness, one is as good as another; 
our own is worth as much as another's. But the rec- 
ognition that good is always found in a present growth 
of significance in activity protects us from thinking 
that welfare can consist in a soup-kitchen happiness, 
in pleasures we can confer upon others from without. 
It shows that good is the same in quality wherever it is 
found, whether in some other self or in one's own. An 
activity has meaning in the degree in which it establishes 
and acknowledges variety and intimacy of connections. 
As long as any social impulse endures, so long an activ- 
ity that shuts itself off will bring inward dissatisfaction 
and entail a struggle for compensatory goods, no mat- 
ter what pleasures or external successes acclaim its 

To say that the welfare of others, like our own, 
consists in a widening and deepening of the perceptions 
that give activity its meaning, in an educative growth, 
is to set forth a proposition of political import. To 
" make others happy " except through liberating their 
powers and engaging them in activities that enlarge 
the meaning of life is to harm them and to indulge 
ourselves under cover of exercising a special virtue. 
Our moral measure for estimating any existing ar- 
rangement or any proposed reform is its effect upon 


impulse and habits. Does it liberate or suppress, ossify 
or render flexible, divide or unify interest? Is per- 
ception quickened or dulled? Is memory made apt and 
extensive or narrow and diffusely irrelevant? Is imag- 
ination diverted to fantasy and compensatory dreams, 
or does it add fertility to life? Is thought creative or 
pushed one side into pedantic specialisms? There is a 
sense in which to set up social welfare as an end of 
action only promotes an offensive condescension, a 
harsh interference, or an oleaginous display of com- 
placent kindliness. It always tends in this direction 
when it is aimed at giving happiness to others 
directly, that is, as we can hand a physical thing to 
another. To foster conditions that widen the horizon 
of others and give them command of their own powers, 
so that they can find their own happiness in their own 
fashion, is the way of " social " action. Otherwise the 
prayer of a freeman would be to be left alone, and to be 
delivered, above all, from " reformers " and " kind " 


Since morals is concerned with conduct, it grows out 
of specific empirical facts. Almost all influential moral 
theories, with the exception of the utilitarian, have re- 
fused to admit this idea. For Christendom as a whole, 
morality has been connected with supernatural com- 
mands, rewards and penalties. Those who have es- 
caped this superstition have contented themselves with 
converting the difference between this world and the 
next into a distinction between the actual and the ideal, 
what is and what should be. The actual world has not 
been surrendered to the devil in name, but it is treated 
as a display of physical forces incapable of generating 
moral values. Consequently, moral considerations must 
be introduced from above. Human nature may not be 
officially declared to be infected because of some aborig- 
inal sin, but it is said to be sensuous, impulsive, sub- 
jected to necessity, while natural intelligence is such 
that it cannot rise above a reckoning of private ex- 

But in fact morals is the most humane of all sub- 
jects. It is that which is closest to human nature; it 
is ineradicably empirical, not theological nor meta- 
physical nor mathematical. Since it directly concerns 
human nature, everything that can be known of the 
human mind and body in physiology, medicine, anthro- 



pology, and psychology is pertinent to moral inquiry. 
Human nature exists and operates in an environment. 
And it is not " in " that environment as coins are in a 
box, but as a plant is in the sunlight and soil. It is 
of them, continuous with their energies, dependent upon 
their support, capable of increase only as it utilizes 
them, and as it gradually rebuilds from their crude in- 
difference an environment genially civilized. Hence 
physics, chemistry, history, statistics, engineering sci- 
ence, are a part of disciplined moral knowledge so far 
as they enable us to understand the conditions and 
agencies through which man lives, and on account of 
which he forms and executes his plans. Moral science 
is not something with a separate province. It is phys- 
ical, biological and historic knowledge placed in a 
human context where it will illuminate and guide the 
activities of men. 

The path of truth is narrow and straitened. It is 
only too easy to wander beyond the course from this 
side to that. In a reaction from that error which has 
made morals fanatic or fantastic, sentimental or 
authoritative by severing them from actual facts and 
forces, theorists have gone to the other extreme. They 
have insisted that natural laws are themselves moral 
laws, so that it remains, after noting them, only to con- 
form to them. This doctrine of accord with nature 
has usually marked a transition period. When myth- 
ology is dying in its open forms, and when social life is 
so disturbed that custom and tradition fail to supply 
their wonted control, men resort to Nature as a norm. 


They apply to Nature all the eulogistic predicates pre- 
viously associated with divine law; or natural law is 
conceived of as the only true divine law. This hap- 
pened in one form in Stoicism. It happened in another 
form in the deism of the eighteenth century with its 
notion of a benevolent, harmonious, wholly rational 
order of Nature. 

In our time this notion has been perpetuated in con- 
nection with a laissez-faire social philosophy and the 
theory of evolution. Human intelligence is thought to 
mark an artificial interference if it does more than reg- 
ister fixed natural laws as rules of human action. The 
process of natural evolution is conceived as the exact 
model of human endeavor. The two ideas met in Spen- 
cer. To the " enlightened " of a former generation, 
Spencer's evolutionary philosophy seemed to afford a 
scientific sanction for the necessity of moral progress, 
while it also proved, up to the hilt, the futility of de- 
liberate " interference " with the benevolent operations 
of nature. The idea of justice was identified with the 
law of cause and effect. Transgression of natural law 
wrought in the struggle for existence its own penalty of 
elimination, and conformity with it brought the reward 
of increased vitality and happiness. By this process 
egoistic desire is gradually coming into harmony with 
the necessity of the environment, till at last the indi- 
vidual automatically finds happiness in doing what the 
natural and social environment demands, and serves 
himself in serving others. From this point of view, 
earlier " scientific " philosophers made a mistake, but 


only the mistake of anticipating the date of complete 
natural harmony. All that reason can do is to acknowl- 
edge the evolutionary forces, and thereby refrain from 
retarding the arrival of the happy day of perfect har- 
mony. Meantime justice demands that the weak and 
ignorant suffer the effect of violation of natural law, 
while the wise and able reap the rewards of their 

The fundamental defect of such views is that they 
fail to see the difference made in conditions and ener- 
gies by perception of them. It is the first business of 
mind to be " realistic," to see things " as they are." 
If, for example, biology can give us knowledge of the 
causes of competency and incompetency, strength and 
weakness, that knowledge is all to the good. A non- 
sentimental morals will seek for all the instruction nat- 
ural science can give concerning the biological condi- 
tions and consequences of inferiority and superiority. 
| But knowledge of facts does not entail conformity and 
I acquiescence^ The contrary i^ the case. Perception 
( of things as they are is but a stage in the process of 
making them different. They have already begun to Fe 
different in beingknown, for by that fact they enter 
into a different context, a context of foresight and 
judgment of better and worse. A false psychology of 
a separate realm of consciousness is the only reason 
this fact is not generally acknowledged. Morality re- 
sides not in perception of fact, but in the use made of 
its perception. It is a monstrous assumption that 
its sole use is to utter benedictions upon fact and its 


offspring. It is the part of intelligence to tell when 
to use the fact to conform and perpetuate, and when 
to use it to vary conditions and consequences. 

It is absurd to suppose that knowledge about the con- 
nection between inferiority and its consequences pre- 
scribes adherence to that connection. It is like sup- 
posing that knowledge of the connection between ma- 
laria and mosquitoes enjoins breeding mosquitoes. The 
fact when it is known enters into a new environment. 
Without ceasing to belong to the physical environment 
it enters _also into a mediumof human activities, of 
desires and aversions, habits and instincts. It thereby 
gains new potencies, new capacities. Gunpowder in 
water does not act the same as gunpowder next a flame. 
A fact known does not operate the same as a fact un- 
.perceived. When it is known it comes into contact witH 
the flame of desire and the cold bath of antipathy, 
Knowledge o the conditions that breed incapacity may 
fit into some desire to maintain others in that state 
while averting it for one's self. Or it may fall in with 
a character which finds itself blocked by such facts, and 
therefore strives to use knowledge of causes to make a 
change in effects. Moralitjjjegins at this Egint^ of use 
of knr>wjprLgp nf natural law, a use varying with the 
active system of dispositions an^TBesires. Intelligent 
action is not concerned with thelbare consequences of 
the thing known, but with consequences to be brought 
into existence by action conditioned on the knowledge. 
Men may use their knowledge to induce conformity or 
exaggeration, or to effect change and abolition of con- 


ditions. The quality of these consequences determines 
the question of better or worse. 

The exaggeration of the harmony attributed to Na- 
ture aroused men to note its disharmonies. An optimis- 
tic view of natural benevolence was followed by a more 
honest, less romantic view of struggle and conflict in 
nature. After Helvetius and Bentham came Malthus 
and Darwin. The problem of morals is the problem of 
desire and intelligence. What is to be done with these 
facts of disharmony and conflict? After we have dis- 
covered the place and consequences of conflict in na- 
ture, we have still to discover its place and working in 
human need and thought. What is its office, its function, 
its possibility, or use? In general, the answer is simple. 
Conflict is the gadfly of thought. It stirs us to ob- 
servation and memory. It instigates to invention. It 
shocks us out of sheep-like passivity, and sets us at 
noting and contriving. Not that it always effects this 
result ; but that conflict is a sine qua non of reflection 
and ingenuity. When this possibility of making use of 
conflict has once been noted, it is possible to utilize it 
systematically to substitute the arbitration of mind for 
that of brutal attack and brute collapse. But the 
tendency to take natural law for a norm of action which 
the supposedly scientific have inherited from eighteenth 
century rationalism leads to an idealization of the prin- 
ciple of conflict itself. Its office in promoting progress 
through arousing intelligence is overlooked, and it is 
erected into the generator of progress. Karl Marx 
borrowed from the dialectic of Hegel the idea of the 


necessity of a negative element, of opposition, for ad- 
vance. He projected it into social affairs and reached 
the conclusion that all social development comes from 
conflict between classes, and that therefore class-war- 
fare is to be cultivated. Hence a supposedly scientific 
form of the doctrine of social evolution preaches social 
hostility as the road to social harmony. It would be 
difficult to find a more striking instance of what happens 
when natural events are given a social and practical 
sanctification. Darwinism has been similarly used 
to justify war and the brutalities of competition for 
wealth and power. 

The excuse, the provocation, though not the justifica- 
tion for such a doctrine is found in the actions of those 
who say peace, peace, when there is no peace, who refuse 
to recognize facts as they are, who proclaim a natural 
harmony of wealth and merit, of capital and labor, and 
the natural justice, in the main, of existing conditions. 
There is something horrible, something that makrs one 
fear for civilization, in denunciations of class-differ- 
ences and class struggles which proceed from a class in 
power, one that is seizing every means, even to a mo- 
nopoly of moral ideals, to carry on its struggle for 
class-power. This class adds hypocrisy to conflict and 
brings all idealism into disrepute. It does everything 
which ingenuity and prestige can do to give color to 
the assertions of those who say that all moral consid- 
erations are irrelevant, and that the issue is one of 
brute trial of forces between this side and that. The 
alternative, here as elsewhere, is not between denying 


facts in behalf of something termed moral ideals and 
accepting facts as final. There remains the possibil- 
ity of recognizing facts and using them as a challenge 
to intelligence to modify the environment and change 


The place of natural fact and law in morals brings us 
to the problem of freedom. We are told that seriously 
to import empirical facts into morals is equivalent to 
an abrogation of freedom. Facts and laws mean ne- 
cessity we are told. The way to freedom is to turn our 
back upon them and take flight to a separate ideal 
realm. Even if the flight could be successfully accom- 
plished, the efficacy of the prescription may be 
doubted. For we need freedom in and among 
actual events, not apart from them. It is to 
be hoped therefore that there remains an alter- 
native ; that the road to freedom may be found in that 
knowledge of facts which enables us to employ them in 
connection with desires and aims. A physician or en- 
gineer is free in his thought ancfhis action in the degree 
in which he knows what he deals with. Possibly we find 
here the key to any freedom. 

What men have esteemed and fought for in the name 
of liberty is varied and complex but certainly it has 
never been a metaphysical freedom of will. It seems 
to contain three elements of importance* though on 
their face not all of them are directly compatible with 
one another, (i) It includes efficiency in action, abil- 
ity to carry out plans, the absence of cramping and 
thwarting obstacles, (ii) It also includes capacity to 




vary plans, to change the~cours_of action, to experi- 
ence novelties. And again (iii) it signifies the power of 
desire and choice to be factors in events. 

Few men would purchase even a high amount of ef- 
ficient action along definite lines at the price of monot- 
ony, or if success in action were bought by all abandon- 
ment of personal preference. They would probably feel 
that a more precious freedom was possessed in a life 
of ill-assured objective achievement that contained 
undertaking of risks, adventuring in new fields, a pit- 
ting of personal choice against the odds of events, and 
a mixture of success and failures, provided choice had 
a career. The slave is a man who executes the wish of 
others, one doomed to act along lines predetermined to 
regularity. Thogewhojiave defined freedom as ability 
to act have unconsciouslyassumecTthat this ability is 
exercised in^ accord with desire, andjthat Jts operation 
introduces jth_agent into fields previously unexplored^ 
Hence the conception of freedom as involving three 

Yet efficiency in execution cannot be ignored. To say 
that a man is free to choose to walk while the only walk 
he can take will lead him over a precipice is to strain 
words as well as facts. Intelligence^ is the key-^ofree- 
dom in act. We are likely to be able to go ahead pros- 
perously in the degree in which we have consulted con- 
ditions and formed a plan which enlists their consent- 
ing cooperation. The gratuitous help of unforeseen 
circumstance we cannot afford to despise. Luck, bad 
if not good, will always be with us. But it has a way 


of favoring the intelligent and showing its back to the 
stupid. And the gifts of fortune when they come are 
fleeting except when they are made taut by intelligent 
adaptation of conditions. In neutral and adverse cir- 
cumstances, study and foresight are the only roads to 
unimpeded action. Insistence upon a metaphysical 
freedom of will is generally at its most strident pitch 
with those who despise knowledge of matters-of-fact. 
They pay for their contempt by halting and confined 
action. Glorification of freedom in general at the ex- 
pense of positive abilities in particular has often char- 
acterized the official creed of historic liberalism. Its 
outward sign is the separation of politics and law from 
economics. Much of what is called the " individual- 
ism " of the early nineteenth century has in truth little 
to do with the nature of individuals. It goes back to a 
metaphysics which held that harmony between man and 
nature can be taken for granted, if once certain arti- 
ficial restrictions upon man are removed. Hence it 
neglected the necessity of studying and regulating in- 
dustrial conditions so that a nominal freedom can 
be made an actuality. Find a man who believes that all 
men need is freedom from oppressive legal and political 
measures, and you have found a man who, unless he is 
merely obstinately maintaining his own private privi- 
leges, carries at the back of his head some heritage of 
the metaphysical doctrine of free-will, plus an opti- 
mistic confidence in natural harmony. He needs a phi- 
losophy that recognizes the objective character of free- 
dom and its dependence upon a congruity of environ- 


merit with human wants, an agreement which can be 
obtained only by profound thought and unremitting 
application. For freedom as a fact depends upon con- 
ditions of work which are socially and scientifically 
buttressed. Since industry covers the most pervasive 
relations of man with his environment, freedom is unreal 
which does not have as its basis an economic command 
of environment. 

I have no desire to add another to the cheap and easy 
solutions which exist of the seeming conflict between 
freedom and organization. It is reasonably obvious 
that organization may become a hindrance to freedom ; 
it does not take us far to say that the trouble lies not 
in organization but in over-organization. At the same 
time, it must be admitted that there is no effective or 
objective freedom without organization. It is easy to 
criticize the contract theory of the state which states 
that individuals surrender some at least of their natural 
liberties in order to make secure as civil liberties what 
they retain. Nevertheless there is some truth in the 
idea of surrender and exchange. A certain natural 
freedom is possessed by man. That is to say, in some 
respects harmony exists between a man's energies and 
his surroundings such that the latter support and exe- 
cute his purposes. In so far he is free; without such 
a basic natural support, conscious contrivances of leg- 
islation, administration and deliberate human institu- 
tion of social arrangements cannot take place. In this 
sense natural freedom is prior to political freedom and 
is its condition. But we cannot trust wholly to a free- 


dom thus procured. It is at the mercy of accident. 
Conscious agreements among men must supplement and 
in some degree supplant freedom of action which is the 
gift of nature. In order to arrive at these agreements, 
individuals have to make concessions. They must con- 
sent to curtailment of some natural liberties in order 
that any of them may be rendered secure and enduring. 
They must, in short, enter into an organization with 
other human beings so that the activities of others may 
be permanently counted upon to assure regularity of 
action and far-reaching scope of plans and courses of 
action. The procedure is not, in so far, unlike surren- 
dering a portion of one's income in order to buy insur- 
ance against future contingencies, and thus to render 
the future course of life more equably secure. It would 
be folly to maintain that there is no sacrifice; we can 
however contend that the sacrifice is a reasonable one, 
justified by results. 

Viewed in this light, the relation of individual free- 
dom to organization is seen to be an experimental af- 
fair. It is not capable of being settled by abstract 
theory. Take the question of labor unions and the 
closed or open shop. It is folly to fancy that no re- 
strictions and surrenders of prior freedoms and pos- 
sibilities of future freedoms are involved in the exten- 
sion of this particular form of organization. But to 
condemn such organization on the theoretical ground 
that a restriction of liberty is entailed is to adopt a 
position which would have been fatal to every advance 
step in civilization, and to every net gain in effective 


freedom. Every such question is to be judged not on 
the basis of antecedent theory but on the basis of con- 
crete consequences. The question is to the balance of 
freedom and security achieved, as compared with prac- 
ticable alternatives. Even the question of the point 
where membership in an organization ceases to be a 
voluntary matter and becomes coercive or required, is 
also an experimental matter, a thing to be decided by 
scientifically conducted study of consequences, of pros 
and cons. It is definitely an affair of specific detail, 
not of wholesale theory. It is equally amusing to see 
one man denouncing on grounds of pure theory the 
coercion of workers by a labor union while he avails 
himself of the increased power due to corporate action 
in business and praises the coercion of the political 
state; and to see another man denouncing the latter as 
pure tyranny, while lauding the power of industrial 
labor organizations. The position of one or the other 
may be justified in particular cases, but justification 
is due to results in practice not to general theory. 

Organization tends, however, to become rigid and 
to limit freedom. In addition to security and energy 
in action, novelty, risk, change are ingredients of the 
freedom which men desire. Variety is more than the 
spice of life; it is largely of its essence, making a dif- 
ference between the free and the enslaved. Invariant 
virtue appears to be as mechanical as uninterrupted 
vice, for true excellence changes with conditions. Un- 
less character rises to overcome some new difficulty or 
conquer some temptation from an unexpected quarter 


we suspect its grain is only a veneer. Choice is an ele- 
ment in freedom and there can be no choice without 
unrealized and precarious possibilities. It is this de- 
mand for genuine contingency which is caricatured in 
the orthodox doctrine of a freedom of indifference, a 
power to choose this way or that apart from any habit 
or impulse, without even a desire on the part of will to 
show off. Such an indetermination of choice is not 
desired by the lover of either reason or excitement. 
The theory of arbitrary free choice represents indeter- 
minateness of conditions grasped in a vague and lazy 
fashion and hardened into a desirable attribute of will. 
Under the title of freedom men prize such uncertainty 
of conditions as give deliberation and choice an oppor- 
tunity. But uncertainty of volition which is more than 
a reflection of uncertainty of conditions is the mark of 
a person who has acquired imbecility of character 
through permanent weakening of his springs of action. 
Whether or not indeterminateness, uncertainty, 
actually exists in the world is a difficult question. It is 
easier to think of the world as fixed, settled once for 
all, and man as accumulating all the uncertainty there 
is in his will and all the doubt there is in his intellect. 
The rise of natural science has facilitated this dualistic 
partitioning, making nature wholly fixed and mind 
wholly open and empty. Fortunately for us we do not 
have to settle the question. A hypothetical answer is 
enough. // the world is already done and done for, if 
its character is entirely achieved so that its behavior 
is like that of a man lost in routine, then the only free- 


dom for which man can hope is one of efficiency in overt 
action. But if change is genuine, if accounts are still 
in process of making, and if objective uncertainty is the 
stimulus to reflection, then variation in action, novelty 
and experiment, have a true meaning. In any case the 
question is an objective one. It concerns not man in 
isolation from the world but man in his connection with 
it. A world that is at points and times indeterminate 
enough to call out deliberation and to give play to 
choice to shape its future is a world in which will is 
free, not because it is inherently vacillating and un- 
stable, but because deliberation and choice are determin- 
ing and stabilizing factors. 

Upon an empirical view, uncertainty, doubt, hesita- 
tion, contingency and novelty, genuine change which is 
not mere disguised repetition, are facts. Only deduc- 
tive reasoning from certain fixed premisses creates a 
bias in favor of complete determination and finality. 
To say that these things exist only in human experience 
not in the world, and exist there only because of our 
" finitude " is dangerously like paying ourselves with 
words. Empirically the life of man seems in these re- 
spects as in others to express a culmination of facts in 
nature. To admit ignorance and uncertainty in man 
while denying them to nature involves a curious dual- 
ism. Variability, initiative, innovation, departure from 
routine, experimentation are empirically the manifesta- 
tion of a genuine nisus in things. At all events it is 
these things that are precious to us under the name 
of freedom. It is their elimination from the life of a 


slave which makes his life servile, intolerable to the 
freeman who has once been on his own, no matter what 
his animal comfort and security. A free man would 
rather take his chance in an open world than be guar- 
anteed in a closed world. 

These considerations give point to the third factor 
in love of freedom : the desire to have desire count as a 
factor, a force. Even if will chooses unaccountably, 
even if it be a capricious impulse, it does not follow 
that there are real alternatives, genuine possibilities, 
open in the future. What we want is possibilities open 
in the world not in the will, except as will or deliberate 
activity reflects the world. To foresee future objective 
alternatives and to be able by deliberation to choose 
one of them and thereby weight its chances in the 
struggle for future existence, measures our freedom. 
It is assumed sometimes that if it can be shown that 
deliberation determines choice and deliberation is de- 
termined by character and conditions, there is no free- 
dom. This is like saying that because a flower comes 
from root and stem it cannot bear fruit. The question 
is not what are the antecedents of deliberation and 
choice, but what are their consequences. What do they 
do that is distinctive? The answer is that they give us 
all the control of future possibilities which is open to us. 
And this control is the crux of our freedom. Without 
it, we are pushed from behind. With it we walk in the 

The doctrine that knowledge, intelligence rather than 
will, constitutes freedom is not new. It has been A 


preached by moralists of many a school. All ration- 
alists have identified freedom with action emancipated 
by insight into truth. But insight into necessity has 
by them been substituted for foresight of possibilities. 
Tolstoi for example expressed the idea of Spinoza and 
Hegel when he said that the ox is a slave as long as 
he refuses to recognize the yoke and chafes under it, 
while if he identifies himself with its necessity and draws 
willingly instead of rebelliously, he is free. But as long 
as the yoke is a yoke it is impossible that voluntary 
identification with it should occur. Conscious submis- 
sion is then either fatalistic submissiveness or coward- 
ice. The ox accepts in fact not the yoke but the stall 
and the hay to which the yoke is a necessary incident. 
But if the ox foresees the consequences of the use of 
the yoke, if he anticipates the possibility of harvest, 
and identifies himself not with the yoke but with the 
realization of its possibilities, he acts freely, volunta- 
rily. He hasn't accepted a necessity as unavoidable; he 
has welcomed a possibility as a desirability. 

Perception of necessary law plays, indeed, a part. 
But no amount of insight into necessity brings with it, 
as such, anything but a consciousness of necessity. 
Freedom is the " truth of necessity " only when we use 
one " necessity " to alter another. When we use the 
law to foresee consequences and to consider how they 
may be averted or secured, then freedom begins. Em- 
ploying knowledge of law to enforce desire in execution 
gives power to the engineer. Employing knowledge of 
law in order to submit to it without further action con- 


stitutes fatalism, no matter how it be dressed up. Thus 
we recur to our main contention. Morality depends 
upon events, not upon commands and ideals alien to 
nature. But intelligence treats events as moving, as 
fraught with possibilities, not as ended, final. In fore- 
casting their possibilities, the distinction between bet- 
ter and worse arises. Human desire and ability cooper- 
ates with this or that natural force according as this 
or that eventuality is judged better. We do not use 
the present to control the future. We use the fore- 
sight of the future to refine and expand present activ- 
ity. In this use of desire, deliberation and choice, free- 
dom is actualized. 


Intelligence becomes ours in the degree in which we 
use it and accept responsibility for consequences. It 
is not ours originally or by production. " It thinks " 
is a truer psychological statement than " I think." 
Thoughts sprout and vegetate ; ideas proliferate. They 
come from deep unconscious sources. " I think " is a 
statement about voluntary action. Some suggestion 
surges from the unknown. Our active body of habits 
appropriates it. The suggestion then becomes an asser- 
tion. It no longer merely comes to us. It is accepted 
and uttered by us. We act upon it and thereby assume, 
by implication, its consequences. The stuff of belief 
and proposition is not originated by us. It comes to us 
from others, by education, tradition and the suggestion 
of the environment. Our intelligence is bound up, so 
far as its materials are concerned, with the community 
life of which we are a part. We know what it communi- 
cates to us, and know according to the habits it forms 
in us. Science is an affair of civilization not of indi- 
vidual intellect. 

So with conscience. When a child acts, those about 
him re-act. They shower encouragement upon him, 
visit him with approval, or they bestow frowns and 
rebuke. What others do to us when we act is as nat- 
ural a consequence of our action as what the fire does 



to us when we plunge our hands in it. The social en- 
vironment may be as artificial as you please. But its 
action in response to ours is natural not artificial. In 
language and imagination we rehearse the responses of 
others just as we dramatically enact other consequences. 
We foreknow how others will act, and the foreknowl- 
edge is the beginning of judgment passed on action. We 
know with them; there is conscience. An assembly is 
formed within our breast which discusses and appraises 
proposed and performed acts. The community with- 
out becomes a forum and tribunal within, a judgment- 
seat of charges, assessments and exculpations. Our 
thoughts of our own actions are saturated with the 
ideas that others entertain about them, ideas which 
have been expressed not only in explicit instruction but 
still more effectively in reaction to our acts. 

Liability is the beginning of responsibility. We are 
held accountable by others for the consequences of our 
acts. They visit their like and dislike of these con- 
sequences upon us. In vain do we claim that these are 
not ours; that they are products of ignorance not 
design, or are incidents in the execution of a most laud- 
able scheme. Their authorship is imputed to us. We 
are disapproved, and disapproval is not an inner state 
of mind but a most definite act. Others say to us by 
their deeds we do not care a fig whether you did this 
deliberately or not. We intend that you shall deliber- 
ate before you do it again, and that if possible your 
deliberation shall prevent a repetition of this act we 
object to. The reference in blame and every unfavor- 


able judgment is prospective, not retrospective. The- 
ories about responsibility may become confused, but in 
practice no one is stupid enough to try to change the 
past. Approbation and disapprobation are ways of 
influencing the formation of habits and aims ; that is, 
of influencing future acts. The individual is held ac- 
countable for what he has done in order that he may be 
responsive in what he is going to do. Gradually per- 
sons learn by dramatic imitation to hold themselves 
accountable, and liability becomes a voluntary delib- 
erate acknowledgment that deeds are our own, that 
their consequences come from us. 

These two facts, that moral judgment and moral 
responsibility are the work wrought in us by the social 
environment, signify that all morality is social; not 
because we ought to take into account the effect of our 
acts upon the welfare of others, but because of facts. 
Others do take account of what we do, and they re- 
spond accordingly to our acts. Their responses actu- 
ally do affect the meaning of what we do. The sig- 
nificance thus contributed is as inevitable as is the effect 
of interaction with the physical environment. In fact 
as civilization advances the physical environment gets 
itself more and more humanized, for the meaning of 
physical energies and events becomes involved with the 
part they play in human activities. Our conduct ** 
socially conditioned whether we perceive the fact or 

The effect of custom on habit, and of habit upon 
thought is enough to prove this statement. When we 


begin to forecast consequences, the consequences that 
most stand out are those which will proceed from other 
people. The resistance and the cooperation of others 
is the central fact in the furtherance or failure of our 
schemes. Connections with our fellows furnish both the 
opportunities for action and the instrumentalities by 
which we take advantage of opportunity. All of the 
actions of an individual bear the stamp of his com- 
munity as assuredly as does the language he speaks. 
Difficulty in reading the stamp is due to variety of im- 
pressions in consequence of membership in many groups. 
This social saturation is, I repeat, a matter of fact, 
not of what should be, not of what is desirable or un- 
desirable. It does not guarantee the Tightness of good- 
ness of an act; there is no excuse for thinking of evil 
action as individualistic a,nd right action as social. 
Deliberate unscrupulous pursuit of self-interest is as 
much conditioned upon social opportunities, training 
and assistance as is the course of action prompted by 
a beaming benevolence. The difference lies in the qual- 
ity and degree of the perception of ties and interde- 
pendencies ; in the use to which they are put. Consider 
the form commonly assumed today by self-seeking; 
namely command of money and economic power. 
Money is a social institution; property is a legal cus- 
tom; economic opportunities are dependent upon the 
state of society; the objects aimed at, the rewards 
sought for, are what they are because of social admira- 
tion, prestige, competition and power. If money-mak- 
ing is morally obnoxious it is because of the way these 


social facts are handled, not because a money-making 
man has withdrawn from society into an isolated self- 
hood or turned his back upon society. His " individ- 
ualism " is not found in his original nature but in his 
habits acquired under social influences. It is found in 
his concrete aims, and these are reflexes of social con- 
ditions. Well-grounded moral objection to a mode of 
conduct rests upon the kind of social connections that 
figure, not upon lack of social aim. A man may at- 
tempt to utilize social relationships for his own ad- 
vantage in an inequitable way; he may intentionally 
or unconsciously try to make them feed one of his own 
appetites. Then he is denounced as egoistic. But both 
his course of action and the disapproval he is subject 
to are facts within society. They are social phe- 
nomena. He pursues his unjust advantage as a social 

Explicit recognition of this fact is a prerequisite of 
improvement in moral education and of an intelligent 
understanding of the chief ideas or " categories " of 
morals. Morals is as much a matter of interaction of 
a person with his social environment as walking is an 
interaction of legs with a physical environment. The 
character of walking depends upon the strength and 
competency of legs. But it also depends upon whether 
a man is walking in a bog or on a paved street, upon 
whether there is a safeguarded path set aside or whether 
he has to walk amid dangerous vehicles. If the stand- 
ard of morals is low it is because the education given 
by the interaction of the individual with his social en- 


vironment is defective. Of what avail is it to preach 
unassuming simplicity and contentment of life when 
communal admiration goes to the man who " succeeds '* 
who makes himself conspicuous and envied because of 
command of money and other forms of power? If a 
child gets on by peevishness or intrigue, then others 
are his accomplices who assist in the habits which are 
built up. The notion that an abstract ready-made 
conscience exists in individuals and that it is only nec- 
essary to make an occasional appeal to it and to indulge 
in occasional crude rebukes and punishments, is asso- 
ciated with the causes of lack of definitive and orderly 
moral advance. For it is associated with lack of at- 
tention to social forces. 

There is a peculiar inconsistency in the current idea 
that morals ought to be social. The introduction of 
the moral " ought " into the idea contains an implicit 
assertion that morals depend upon something apart 
from social relations. Morals are social. The ques- 
tion of ought, should be, is a question of better and 
worse in social affairs. The extent to which the weight 
of theories has been thrown against the perception of 
the place of social ties and connections in moral activ- 
ity is a fair measure of the extent to which social forces 
work blindly and develop an accidental morality. The 
chief obstacle for example to recognizing the truth of 
a proposition frequently set forth in these pages to the 
effect that all conduct is potential, if not actual, mat- 
ter of moral judgment is the habit of identifying moral 
judgment with praise and blame. So great is the in- 


fluence of this habit that it is safe to say that every 
professed moralist when he leaves the pages of theory 
and faces some actual item of his own or others' be- 
havior, first or " instinctively " thinks of acts as moral 
or non-moral in the degree in which they are exposed to 
condemnation or approval. Now this kind of judgment 
is certainly not one which could profitably be dispensed 
with. Its influence is much needed. But the tendency 
to equate it with all moral judgment is largely re- 
sponsible for the current idea that there is a sharp 
line between moral conduct and a larger region of non- 
moral conduct which is a matter of expediency, shrewd- 
ness, success or manners. 

Moreover this tendency is a chief reason why the 
social forces effective in shaping actual morality work 
blindly and unsatisfactorily. Judgment in which the 
emphasis falls upon blame and approbation has more 
heat than light. It is more emotional than intellectual. 
It is guided by custom, personal convenience and re- 
sentment rather than by insight into causes and con- 
sequences. It makes toward reducing moral instruc- 
tion, the educative influence of social opinion, to an 
immediate personal matter, that is to say, to an adjust- 
ment of personal likes and dislikes. Fault-finding cre- 
ates resentment in the one blamed, and approval, com- 
placency, rather than a habit of scrutinizing conduct 
objectively. It puts those who are sensitive to the 
judgments of others in a standing defensive attitude, 
creating an apologetic, self-accusing and self-exculpat- 
ing habit of mind when what is needed is an impersonal 


impartial habit of observation. " Moral " persons get 
so occupied with defending their conduct from real and 
imagined criticism that they have little time left to see 
what their acts really amount to, and the habit of self- 
blame inevitably extends to include others since it is a 

Now it is a wholesome thing for any one to be 
made aware that thoughtless, self-centered action on 
his part exposes him to the indignation and dislike of 
others. There is no one who can be safely trusted to 
be exempt from immediate reactions of criticism, and 
there are few who do not need to be braced by occa- 
sional expressions of approval. But these influences are 
immensely overdone in comparison with the assistance 
that might be given by the influence of social judg- 
ments which operate without accompaniments of praise 
and blame; which enable an individual to see for him- 
self what he is doing, and which put him in command of 
a method of analyzing the obscure and usually un- 
avowed forces which move him to act. We need a per- 
meation of judgments on conduct by the method and 
materials of a science of human nature. Without such 
enlightenment even the best-intentioned attempts at 
the moral guidance and improvement of others often 
eventuate in tragedies of misunderstanding and division, 
as is so often seen in the relations of parents and 

The development therefore of a more adequate sci- 
ence of human nature is a matter of first-rate impor- 
tance. The present revolt against the notion that psy- 


chology is a science of consciousness may well turn out 
in the future to be the beginning of a definitive turn 
in thought and action. Historically there are good 
reasons for the isolation and exaggeration of the con- 
scious phase of human action, an isolation which for- 
got that " conscious " is an adjective of some acts and 
which erected the resulting abstraction, ** conscious- 
ness," into a noun, an existence separate and complete. 
These reasons are interesting not only to the student 
of technical philosophy but also to the student of the 
history of culture and even of politics. They have to 
do with the attempt to drag realities out of occult es- 
sences and hidden forces and get them into the light of 
day. They were part of the general movement called 
phenomenalism, and of the growing importance of in- 
dividual life and private voluntary concerns. But the 
effect was to isolate the individual from his connections 
both with his fellows and with nature, and thus to cre- 
ate an artificial human nature, one not capable of being 
understood and effectively directed on the basis of 
analytic understanding. It shut out from view, not to 
say from scientific examination, the forces which really 
move human nature. It took a few surface phenomena 
for the whole story of significant human motive-forces 
and acts. 

As a consequence physical science and its technolog- 
ical applications were highly developed while the sci- 
ence of man, moral science, is backward. I believe 
that it is not possible to estimate how much of the dif- 
ficulties of the present world situation are due to the 


disproportion and unbalance thus introduced into af- 
fairs. It would have seemed absurd to say in the sev- 
enteenth century that in the end the alteration in 
methods of physical investigation which was then be- 
ginning would prove more important than the religious 
wars of that century. Yet the wars marked the end 
of one era ; the dawn of physical science the beginning 
of a new one. And a trained imagination may discover 
that the nationalistic and economic wars which are the 
chief outward mark of the present are in the end to be 
less significant than the development of a science of 
human nature now inchoate. 

It sounds academic to say that substantial bettering 
of social relations waits upon the growth of a scientific 
social psychology. For the term suggests something 
specialized and remote. But the formation of habits of 
belief, desire and judgment is going on at every instant 
under the influence of the conditions set by men's 
contact, intercourse and associations with one another. 
This is the fundamental fact in social life and in per- 
sonal character. It is the fact about which traditional 
human science gives no enlightenment a fact which 
this traditional science blurs and virtually denies. The 
enormous role played in popular morals by appeal to 
the supernatural and quasi-magical is in effect a des- 
perate admission of the futility of our science. Con- 
sequently the whole matter of the formation of the pre- 
dispositions which effectively control human relation 
ships is left to accident, to custom and immediate per- 
sonal likings, resentments and ambitions. It is a com- 


monplace that modern industry and commerce are con- 
ditioned upon a control of physical energies due to 
proper methods of physical inquiry and analysis. We 
have no social arts which are comparable because we 
have so nearly nothing in the way of psychological sci- 
ence. Yet through the development of physical science, 
and especially of chemistry, biology, physiology, med- 
icine and anthropology we now have the basis for the 
development of such a science of man. Signs of its 
coming into existence are present in the movements in 
clinical, behavioristic and social (in its narrower sense) 

At present we not only have no assured means of 
forming character except crude devices of blame, praise, 
exhortation and punishment, but the very meaning of 
the general notions of moral inquiry is matter of doubt 
and dispute. The reason is that these notions are dis- 
cussed in isolation from the concrete facts of the in- 
teractions of human beings with one another an ab- 
straction as fatal as was the old discussion of phlogis- 
ton, gravity and vital force apart from concrete cor- 
relations of changing events with one another. Take 
for example such a basic conception as that of Right 
involving the nature of authority in conduct. There 
is no need here to rehearse the multitude of contending 
views which give evidence that discussion of this matter 
is still in the realm of opinion. We content ourselves 
with pointing out that this notion is the last resort of 
the anti-empirical school in morals and that it proves 
the effect of neglect of social conditions. 


In effect its adherents argue as follows : " Let us con- 
cede that concrete ideas about right and wrong and 
particular notions of what is obligatory have grown up 
within experience. But we cannot admit this about tht 
idea of Right, of Obligation itself. Why does moral 
authority exist at all? Why is the claim of the Right 
recognized in conscience even by those who violate it 
in deed? Our opponents say that such and such a 
course is wise, expedient, better. But why act for the 
wise, or good, or better? Why not follow our own im- 
mediate devices if we are so inclined? There is only 
one answer : We have a moral nature, a conscience, call 
it what you will. And this nature responds directly in 
acknowledgment of the supreme authority of the Right 
over all claims of inclination and habit. We may not 
act in accordance with this acknowledgment, but we 
still know that the authority of the moral law, although 
not its power, is unquestionable. Men may differ in- 
definitely according to what their experience has been as 
to just what is Right, what its contents are. But they 
all spontaneously agree in recognizing the supremacy of 
the claims of whatever is thought of as Right. Other- 
wise there would be no such thing as morality, but 
merely calculations of how to satisfy desire. 

Grant the foregoing argument, and all the apparatus 
of abstract moralism follows in its wake. A remote 
goal of perfection, ideals that are contrary in a whole- 
sale way to what is actual, a free will of arbitrary 
choice; all of these conceptions band themselves to- 
gether with that of a non-empirical authority of Right 


and a non-empirical conscience which acknowledges it. 
They constitute its ceremonial or formal train. 

Why, indeed, acknowledge the authority of Right? 
That many persons do not acknowledge it in fact, in 
action, and that all persons ignore it at times, is as- 
sumed by the argument. Just what is the significance 
of an alleged recognition of a supremacy which is con- 
tinually denied in fact? How much would be lost if it 
were dropped out, and we were left face to face with 
actual facts? If a man lived alone in the world there 
might be some sense in the question " Why be moral? " 
were it not for one thing: No such question would then 
arise. As it is, we live in a world where other persons 
live too. Our acts affect them. They perceive these 
effects, and react upon us in consequence. Because they 
are living beings they make demands upon us for cer- 
tain things from us. They approve and condemn not 
in abstract theory but in what they do to us. The an- 
swer to the question " Why not put your hand in the 
fire? " is the answer of fact. If you do your hand will 
be burnt. The answer to the question why acknowledge 
the right is of the same sort. For Right is only an 
abstract name for the multitude of concrete demands 
in action which others impress upon us, and of which 
we are obliged, if we would live, to take some account. 
Its authority is the exigency of their demands, the ef- 
ficacy of their insistencies. There may be good ground 
for the contention that in theory the idea of the right 
is subordinate to that of the good, being a statement 
of the course proper to attain good. But in fact it 


signifies the totality of social pressures exercised upon 
us to induce us to think and desire in certain ways. 
Hence the right can in fact become the road to the good 
only as the elements that compose this unremitting 
pressure are enlightened, only as social relationships 
become themselves reasonable. 

It will be retorted that all pressure is a non-moral 
affair partaking of force, not of right ; that right must 
be ideal. Thus we are invited to enter again the circle 
in which the ideal has no force and social actualities no 
ideal quality. We refuse the invitation because social 
pressure is involved in our own lives, as much so as the 
air we breathe and the ground we walk upon. If we 
had desires, judgments, plans, in short a mind, apart 
from social connections, then the latter would be exter- 
nal and their action might be regarded as that of a non- 
moral force. But we live mentally as physically only 
in and because of our environment. Social pressure is 
but a name for the interactions which are always going 
on and in which we participate, living so far as we par- 
take and dying so far as we do not. The pressure is 
not ideal but empirical, yet empirical here means only 
actual. It calls attention to the fact that considera- 
tions of right are claims originating not outside of life, 
but within it. They are " ideal " in precisely the de- 
gree in which we intelligently recognize and act upon 
them, just as colors and canvas become ideal when 
used in ways that give an added meaning to life. 

Accordingly failure to recognize the authority of 
right means defect in effective apprehension of the real- 


ities of human association, not an arbitrary exercise of 
free will. This deficiency and perversion in apprehen- 
sion indicates a defect in education that is to say, in 
the operation of actual conditions, in the consequences 
upon desire and thought of existing interactions and 
interdependencies. It is false that every person has a 
consciousness of the supreme authority of right and 
then misconceives it or ignores it in action. One has 
such a sense of the claims of social relationships as 
those relationships enforce in one's desires and obser- 
vations. The belief in a separate, ideal or transcen- 
dental, practically ineffectual Right is a reflex of the 
inadequacy with which existing institutions perform 
their educative office their office in generating obser- 
vation of social continuities. It is an endeavor to 
" rationalize " this defect. Like all rationalizations, it 
operates to divert attention from the real state of 
affairs. Thus it helps maintain the conditions which 
created it, standing in the way of effort to make our 
institutions more humane and equitable. A theoretical 
acknowledgment of the supreme authority of Right, of 
moral law, gets twisted into an effectual substitute for 
acts which would better the customs which now pro- 
duce vague, dull, halting and evasive observation of 
actual social ties. We are not caught in a circle; we 
traverse a spiral in which social customs generate some 
consciousness of interdependencies, and this conscious- 
ness is embodied in acts which in improving the environ- 
ment generate new perceptions of social ties, and so 
on forever. The relationships, the interactions are for- 


ever there as fact, but they acquire meaning only in 
the desires, judgments and purposes they awaken. 

We recur to our fundamental propositions. Morals 
is connected with actualities of existence, not with 
ideals, ends and obligations independent of concrete 
actualities. The facts upon which it depends are those 
which arise out of active connections of human beings 
with one another, the consequences of their mutually 
intertwined activities in the life of desire, belief, judg- 
ment, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. In this sense 
conduct and hence morals are social: they are not just 
things which ought to be social and which fail to come 
up to the scratch. But there are enormous differences 
of better and worse in the quality of what is social. 
Ideal morals begin with the perception of these dif- 
ferences. Human interaction and ties are there, are 
operative in any case. But they can be regulated, em- 
ployed in an orderly way for good only as we know how 
to observe them. And they cannot be observed aright, 
they cannot be understood and utilized, when the mind 
is left to itself to work without the aid of science. For 
the natural unaided mind means precisely the habits 
of belief, thought and desire which have been acciden- 
tally generated and confirmed by social institutions or 
customs. But with all their admixture of accident and 
reasonableness we have at last reached a point where 
social conditions create a mind capable of scientific 
outlook and inquiry. To foster and develop this spirit 
is the social obligation of the present because it is its 
urgent need. 


Yet the last word is not with obligation nor with the 
future. Infinite relationships of man with his fellows 
and with nature already exist. The ideal means, as 
we have seen, a sense of these encompassing continui- 
ties with their infinite reach. This meaning even now 
attaches to present activities because they are set in a 
whole to which they belong and which belongs to them. 
Even in the midst of conflict, struggle and defeat a 
consciousness is possible of the enduring and compre- 
hending whole. 

To be grasped and held this consciousness needs, like 
every form of consciousness, objects, symbols. In the 
past men have sought many symbols which no longer 
serve, especially since men have been idolaters worship- 
ing symbols as things. Yet within these symbols which 
have so often claimed to be realities and which have im- 
posed themselves as dogmas and intolerances, there has 
rarely been absent some trace of a vital and enduring 
reality, that of a community of life in which continuities 
of existence are consummated. Consciousness of the 
whole has been connected with reverences, affections, 
and loyalties which are communal. But special ways of 
expressing the communal sense have been established. 
They have been limited to a select social group; they 
have hardened into obligatory rites and been imposed 
as conditions of salvation. Religion has lost itself in 
cults, dogmas and myths. Consequently the office of 
religion as sense of community and one's place in 
it has been lost. In effect religion has been distorted 
into a possession or burden of a limited part of 


human nature, of a limited portion of humanity which 
finds no way to universalize religion except by imposing 
its own dogmas and ceremonies upon others ; of a lim- 
ited class within a partial group; priests, saints, a 
church. Thus other gods have been set up before the 
one God. Religion as a sense of the whole is the most 
individualized of all things, the most spontaneous, un- 
definable and varied. For individuality signifies unique 
connections in the whole. Yet it lias been perverted 
into something uniform and immutable. It has been 
formulated into fixed and defined beliefs expressed in 
required acts and ceremonies. Instead of marking the 
freedom and peace of the individual as a member of an 
infinite whole, it has been petrified into a slavery of 
thought and sentiment, an intolerant superiority on 
the part of the few and an intolerable burden on the 
part of the many. 

Yet every act may carry within itself a consoling and 
supporting consciousness of the whole to which it 
belongs and which in some sense belongs to it. With 
responsibility for the intelligent determination of par- 
ticular acts may go a joyful emancipation from the 
burden for responsibility for the whole which sustains 
them, giving them their final outcome and quality. 
There is a conceit fostered by perversion of religion 
which assimilates the universe to our personal desires; 
but there is also a conceit of carrying the load of the 
universe from which religion liberates us. Within the 
flickering inconsequential acts of separate selves dwells 
a sense of the whole which claims and dignifies them. 


In its presence we put off mortality and live in the uni- 
versal. The life of the community in which we live 
and have our being is the fit symbol of this relationship. 
The acts in which we express our perception of the ties 
which bind us to others arc its only rites and ceremonies. 


Absentmindedness, 173 
Accidents, in history, 101; in 

consequences, 49, 51, 206-208, 

241, 253, 304, 309 
Acquisition, 116-118, 143-148 
Activity is natural, 118-123, 160, 

226, 293 

Aims, see Consequences, Ends 
Alexander M., 28, 36 
Altruism, 133, 293 
Analysis, 183 
Anger, 90, 152 

Appetite, 7, 275; see Impulse 
Aristotle, 33, 109, 174, 224, 290 
Arts, 15, 23, 71, 159-164, 263 
Atomism moral, 243 
Attitude, 41 ; see Habit 
Authority, 2, 65, 72, 79, 187, 


Benevolence, 133 
Bergson, 73, 178, 245 
Blame, 18, 121, 320 

Causation, 18, 44 

Calculation, 189, 199-209; see 

Casuistry, 240 
Certainty, love of, 236 
Character, denned, 38; and 

consequences, 47 
Childhood, 2, 64, 89, 96, 99 
Choice, 192, 304, 311 
Classes, 2, 82, 270 
Classification, 131, 244 
Codes, 103 
Compensatory, 8, 30, 33, 257, 

Conduct, see Character, Habit, 

Impulse, Intelligence 

Confidence, 139 

Conflict, 12, 39, 66, 82, 194, 208, 

217, 300 

Conscience, 184-188, 314 
Consciousness, 62, 179, 184, 208 
Consequences, and motives, 45- 

47; and aims, 225-229, 245- 


Conservatism, 66, 106, 168 
Continuity, 12, 232, 239, 244, 

Control, 21, 23, 37, 101, 139, 

148, 266-270; see Accident 
Conventions, 6, 97, 166 
Crowd psychology, 60 
Creative and acquisitive, 143- 

Customs and habits, 68-69; and 

standards, 75-83; rigidity, 


Deliberation, 189-209; as dis- 
covery, 216 

Democracy, 61n, 66, 72 

Desire, 24, 33. 194. 234. 299. 
304; and intelligence, 248-264 ; 
object of, 249-252 

Disposition, 41; see Habit 

Docility, 64, 97 

Dualism, 8, 12, 40, 55, 67, 71, 
147, 275, 309 

Economic man, 220 
Economics, 9, 12, 120-124, 132, 

143-148, 212-221, 270-273, 305 
Education, 64, 72, 91, 107, 270, 


Egotism, 7 
Emerson, 100, 144 
Emotion, 75, 83, 255, 264 




End, 28, 34-37; knowledge as, 
187, 215; nature of, 223-237; 
of desire, 250, 261; and 
means, 269-272; see Conse- 
quences, Means 

Environments, 2, 10, 15, 18, 21, 
51, 151, 159, 179, 316 

Epicureanism, 205, 291 

Equilibration, 179, 252 

Evolution, 284-287, 297 

Execution, of desires, 33-35 

Expediency, 49, 189, 210; see 

Experience, 31, 245 

Experimentation, moral, 56, 307 

Fallacy, philosophic, 175 

Fanaticism, 228 

Fear, 111, 132-133, 154-155, 237 

Fiat of will, 29 

Foresight, 204-206, 238, 265- 

270; see Deliberation, Ends 
Freedom, 8, 165; three phases 

of, 303-313; see Will 
Functions, 18 

Gain, 117 

Goal, 260, 265, 274, 281, 287- 
289; see Evolution, Perfec- 

Good, 2, 44, 210-222, 274, 278 

Goodness, 4-8, 16, 43-45, 48, 67, 

Good-will, 44 

Habits, place in conduct, 14-88; 
and desire, 24; as functions, 
14; as arts or abilities, 15, 64, 
66, 71, 170; and thought, 31- 
33, 66-69, 172-180, 182; defini- 
tion, 41; and impulses, 90-98, 
107-111; and principles, 238 

Harmony, natural, 159, 167, 298 

Hedonistic calculus, 204 

Hegel, 312 

Helvetius, 106, 300 

Herd-instinct, 4 

History, 101, 110 

Hobbes, 133 

Human nature, 1; and morals, 

1-13, 295; alterability, 106- 


Humility, 289 
Hypocrisy, 6 
Hypothesis, moral, 239, 243 

Ideas, see Ends, Thought 

Ideals and Idealism, 2, 8, 50, 
68, 77, 81, 99, 157, 166, 184, 
233, 236, 255, 259-264, 274, 
282-288, 301, 331 

Imagination, 52, 163, 190-192, 
204, 225, 234 

Imitation, 66, 97, 132 

Impulse, place in conduct, 89- 
171; secondary, 89; inter- 
mediary, 169-170; as means 
of reorganization, 93, 102, 
104, 179; plastic, 95; same as 
human instincts, 105n; and 
habit, 107-111; false simplifi- 
cation, 131-149; and reason, 
196, 254 

Individualism, 7, 85, 93 

Industry, 11 

Infantilisms, 98 

Instinct, not fixed, 149-168; and 
knowledge, 178; see Impulse 

Institutions, 9, 80, 102, 111, 166 

Intelligence, 10, 13, 51, 299, 312; 
place of, in conduct, 172-277; 
relation to habits, 172-180, 
228; and desire, 248-264, 276 

Interpenetration of habits, 37- 

Intuitions, 33, 188 

James, Wm., 112, 179, 195 
Justice, 18, 52, 198 

Kant, 44, 49, 55, 245 
Knowledge, moral, 181-188; see 
Conscience, Intelligence 

Labor, 121, 144 
Language, 58, 79, 95 



Le Bon, 61 
Liberalism, 305 
Locke, 106 

Marx, 154, 273, 300 

Magic, 20, 26 

Meaning, 37, 90, 151, 207, 262, 
271, 280 

Means, 20; relation to ends, 25- 
36, 218-220, 251; see Habit 

Mechanization, 28, 70, 96, 144 

Mediation, 197 

Mind, 61, 95; and habit, 175- 

Mind and body, 30, 67, 71 

Mitchell, W. C., 213 

Moore, G. E., 241n 

Morals, introduction, 40; con- 
clusion, as objective, 52; of 
art, 167; scope, 278-281 

Motives, 43-45, 118-122, 213, 
231, 329 

Natural law and morals, 296- 


Necessity, 312 
Nirvana, 175, 286 
Non-moral, 8, 27, 40, 188, 230 

Occult, 11 
Oligarchy, 2-3 
Optimism, 286-288 
Organization, 306 

Passion, 9, 193-196 

Pathology, 4, 50 

Perfection, 173-175, 223, 282 

Pessimism, 286 

Phantasies, 158, 164, 236 

Plato, 50, 78, 134, 290 

Play, 159-164 

Pleasure, 158, 200-205, 250 

Posture, 32 

Potentiality, 37 

Power, will to, 140-142 

Pragmatic knowing, 181-188 
Principles, 2; and tendencies, 
49; nature of, 238-247 

Private, 9, 16, 43, 85 

Process and product, 142-143, 

Progress, 10, 21, 93, 96, 101, 
105n; in science, 149; nature 
of, 281-288 

Property, 116-118; see Eco- 

Psycho-analysis, 34, 86, 133, 153, 

Psychology and moral theory, 
12, 46, 91; social, 60-63, 84- 
88; current, 118, 135, 147, 
155; and scientific method, 
150, 322-324 

Punishment, 18 

Puritanism, 5, 157 

Purpose, see Ends 

Radicalism, 168 

Reactions, 157 

Realism, 176, 256, 298 

Reason, pure, 31 ; reasonable- 
ness, .67. 77, 193-198, 215 


Reconstruction, 164 

Religion, 5, 263, 330-332 

Responsibility, 315 

Revolution, 10, 108 

Right, 324-328 

Romanticism, 6, 100, 166, 256 

Routine, 42, 66, 70, 98, 211, 232, 

Satisfaction, 140, 158, 175, 210, 

213, 265, 285 
Savagery, 93, 101, 103 
Science of morals, 3, 11-12, 18, 

56, 224, 243, 296, 321 
Self, 16, 55, 85-87, 136-139, 217, 

292, 314 

Self-deception, 152, 252 
Self-love, 134-139, 293 
Sensations, 18, 31, 189 
Sentimentalism, 17 
Sex, 133, 150, 153, 164-165 
Social, see Environments 
Social mind, 60-63 



Socrates, 56 

Soul, 85, 94, 138, 176 

Spencer, 175, 297 

Standards, 75-82, 241 

Stimulation, 157 

Stimulus and response, 199-207 

Stuart, H. W., 218 

Subjective, 16, 22, 27, 52, 54, 

85, 202; see Dualism 
Sublimation, 141, 156, 164, 194 
Success, 6, 173, 254 
Sumner, 77 
Suppression. 156, 166 
Synthesis, 183-184 

Tendency, 49 

Thought. 30, 67, 98, 108, 171, 

190, 200, 222, 258; vices of, 


Tolstoi, 285, 312 

Tools, 25, 32; intellectual, 244 

Transcendentalism, 50-52, 54, 81 

Universality, 245-247 
Utilitarianism, 50, 189, 199-209, 
211, 221-222, 291 

Virtues, 4, 16, 22; see Goodness 

War, 110-115 

Westermarck, 76 

Will, and habits, 25, 29, 40-44, 

259; will to power, 140-143; 

freedom of, 9 
Williams, M., 273n 


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